Nova Scotia

More intense wildfires to become the norm, ecologist predicts

An ecologist at Guelph University says she believes wildfires raging across the continent are a sign of things to come.

Nova Scotia officials keeping an eye on dry conditions here

An ecologist at Guelph University says wildfires like this one burning in British Columbia are likely to become more common and more intense. (Dan Leonard, AFFES Ignition/Response Specialist)

An ecologist at Guelph University says she believes wildfires raging across North America and beyond are a sign of things to come.

"These fires are burning more intensely," said Merritt Turetsky, a member of the school's integrative biology department.

"These are a direct consequence of climate change."

Turetsky said the heat across the world this summer set off ripple effects influencing the kinds of fires burning today. There are dramatic fires burning in Ontario, British Columbia, California, Sweden and Greece.

No active wildfires in Nova Scotia

Wildfire has always been a part of the boreal forest system, said Turketsky, but the difference now is the level of burning.

"What we're seeing now on the ground leading to these very dangerous conditions is unhealthy burning. [Conditions] are yielding large, large fires — larger than anything we've seen before."

There are currently no active wildfires in Nova Scotia, something a provincial fire prevention officer attributes to prompt reporting efforts when the public sees something, as well as recent humidity and scattered showers.

Detection efforts ongoing

Still, with dry conditions expected heading into a long weekend, Kara McCurdy said officials are preparing for the possibility the fire-risk index here could reach extreme in the coming days.

"Stuff is starting to dry out and the fire crews are starting to see fires burn a little deeper into the ground."

McCurdy said prevention is a major part of efforts here, but crews stand at the ready in case they are needed. Volunteer fire crews are a major part of that effort and aircraft remain on alert, she said.

"We're doing detection and making sure there's no active smoke or anything out there that we aren't getting reported from the public."

More resources will be required

There are 24 district offices spread across the province to deal with wildfires, said McCurdy. There are four helicopters that can be called on to help battle a blaze, along with volunteer fire departments around Nova Scotia that are often the first on the scene, she said.

Turetsky said a concern for her is the increase in wildfire activity. She said the demands to fight the fires could outstrip existing resources.

Additional measures will need to be taken to ensure there are enough firefighters and that they have the appropriate equipment to fight fires and keep themselves safe when called into action.

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With files from CBC Mainstreet