Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Forest fire near Kejimkujik National Park, in Nova Scotiam spreads to 350 hectares

Smoke spreading to Halifax; officials urging caution before calling 911 to report smelling smoke

By Elizabeth McMillan, CBC News Posted: Aug 10, 2016 10:14 AM AT Last Updated: Aug 10, 2016 4:23 PM AT
Smoke from a forest fire near Kejimkujik National Park is hanging over much of the southern part of Nova Scotia as crews spend their sixth day fighting the blaze, which has quadrupled in size since Saturday.

The Seven Mile Lake fire is now 350 hectares and ate up 110 hectares yesterday, the Department of Natural Resources said Wednesday.

Crews are working around the clock to curb its growth amid winds that picked up early in the afternoon, making the task more challenging.

"Today is supposed to be a beautiful day if you're on vacation, but a horrible day if you're fighting forest fires," said Jim Rudderham, the department's forest protection operations manager.

Fire often backtracks

He says air tankers are attacking the fire from above with crews trying to extinguish it on the ground.

The fire is moving forward and backward, pushed by the wind into places it has already burned.

The Seven Mile Lake fire is the biggest of nine forest fires that have been reported in Nova Scotia since last week.

Three of them — Seven Mile Lake in Annapolis County, Ten Mile Lake in Queens County and Clyde River in Shelburne County — are out of control. A new fire was reported in Round Hill, Annapolis County, on Wednesday. Officials say they don't know yet how bad that one is.

The other five have been contained or are no longer burning.

Hazy skies over Halifax

Environment Canada has issued special air quality statements that remain in effect for Annapolis, Lunenburg, Queens and Kings counties. By noon on Wednesday, the smoke had travelled as far as Halifax.

Emergency officials are cautioning against calling 911 about smelling smoke because "there is a strong likelihood what they are in fact seeing and smelling is residue from the fires in southwestern Nova Scotia."

There have been 41 calls in the past three days reporting fires that turned out to be false alarms, a municipal spokesman says.

Meanwhile, a ban on brush burning and campfires is in effect across the province.

'Creeping burn'

Some of the crews have been working since the Seven Mile Lake fire was discovered last Thursday.

The fire moved so quickly Monday night that crews were forced to leave the area. It slowed down on Tuesday, but spread further.
Rudderham says no firefighters have been injured, but it's been a tough slog.

"It's a creeping burn. It's just so hard for the crews, it's just challenging them so bad," he said.

"They win and they lose and they win and they lose. It's just hard."

So far, the fire has not threatened any homes. Rudderham says there's some extra protection around cottages and camps near the fire.

Digging fire breaks

Heavy equipment operators are digging up brush and vegetation to create wide sections where the fire can't pass.

"They are clearing away anything that can burn. Down to bare minimum soil," Rudderham said.

There were no new fires reported overnight Tuesday and so far, he says there are enough resources to go around. But every new fire draws crews away.

Twenty additional firefighters from New Brunswick and Rudderham were expected be on the ground Wednesday afternoon.


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