Nova Scotia

Yarmouth County wildfire was largest in N.S. since 1976; fire risk in province remains high

Last week's wildfire in Yarmouth County, N.S., was the second largest in the province in half a century. And the risk for more large fires remains high.

Province says 99 per cent of wildfires are caused by people

A recent wildfire in Yarmouth County reached 3,100 hectares. It is the largest fire in the province since 1976. (Department of Natural Resources)

Last week's fire in Yarmouth County, N.S., that covered more than 3,100 hectares was the second largest in the province in half a century.

And the risk for more large fires remains high.

"This was a very intense fire and fast-moving," said Paul Schnurr, the incident commander for the Department of Natural Resources.

The Trafalgar fire of 1976 burned 13,000 hectares and is the largest fire on record in Nova Scotia.

Brush burns in the Yarmouth County fire. (Communications Nova Scotia)

Winds propelled the Yarmouth County fire. It wasn't until after the winds slowed and aircraft dropped water that firefighters on the ground were able to fight the fire, Schnurr said.

Overall, it took 40 firefighters, two helicopters and a water bomber to get the fire under control. There were no injuries reported.

Fire crews are still putting water on the fire site every few days.

Paul Schnurr is shown at the Department of Natural Resources' field office in McLellans Brook. (Steve Lawrence)

Risk of 'spring dip'

Schnurr said May and June in Nova Scotia are considered the "spring dip." It's a phenomenon where tree moisture is pushed outwards to support new growth, leaving them dry on the inside.

He said Nova Scotia residents need to understand that people cause 99 per cent of wildfires in the province.

Schnurr said the weather at this time is deceptive.

"People think the snow is gone not that long ago," he said. "They may see the ground is still wet, but what is actually available to burn is all the small fine stuff, and that just takes a day at the most to dry out, and then it's available to burn."

Community comes together

The efforts of the firefighters didn't go unnoticed.

Schnurr said local communities were always available to help the crews, either with food or information about the area.

"People were truly grateful for us coming down and helping them out."

The crew, including firefighters, pilots and Natural Resources members, signed a large flag of Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia Flag signed by incident management team battling Yarmouth fire. (Quinan and District Volunteer Fire Department)

It was decided the flag should remain in the local area and was placed in the Quinan and District Volunteer Fire Department.

The Salvation Army delivered meals and snacks to 60 crew members on the scene by helicopter. They even had their members speaking to crews for support.

She said the firefighters were overwhelmed with gratitude and were always ready to fight the blaze. 

"They wouldn't stop," said spokesperson Gina Haggett. "They were relentless."

Risk for wildfires in N.S. remains high, says incident commander

3 months ago
Duration 2:23
Following a massive fire in Yarmouth last week, a spokesperson from Nova Scotia's Natural Resources Department says the "spring dip" — when trees force water into their new growth, leaving their cores dry — increases the chance of forest fires in the province. Anam Khan has the story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anam Khan

Reporter

Anam Khan is a CBC News reporter based in Halifax. She can be reached at anam.khan@cbc.ca

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