Charges laid against N.S. man after the province’s largest wildfire

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Business Matters: 2023 was one of the most expensive years for insured damages
2023 ranks in the top five for Canada's most costly weather and natural disaster events. Wildfires in B.C. and Nova Scotia, severe summer storms in Ontario and hailstorms in Winnipeg and Calgary contributed to more than $3 billion in insured damages last year. Nivrita Ganguly has this story and more in Business Matters for January 9, 2024 – Jan 9, 2024

A man from Shelburne County, N.S., is facing charges in relation to the Barrington Lake wildfire last spring.

The Barrington Lake wildfire is the largest wildfire in the province’s history, having burned through 23,379 hectares in southwestern Nova Scotia. It broke out on May 26, 2023, and was declared under control on June 13, before being extinguished on July 26.

The fire forced more than 6,000 people from their homes and destroyed 60 houses and cottages.

In a release, the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables said 22-year-old Dalton Clark Stewart of Villagedale has been charged under the Forests Act.

He is accused of lighting a fire on privately owned land without permission of the owner or occupier, failing to take reasonable efforts to prevent the spread of a fire, and leaving a fire unattended.

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Stewart is scheduled to appear in Shelburne Provincial Court on March 7.

“The court will determine the outcome of the charges, including any penalties,” the release said. “People convicted of violations of the Forests Act can be fined up to $50,000 and/or face up to six months in prison.”

Orlando Fraser, director of the Department’s conservation service, said in an interview that he believes Nova Scotians will be happy that charges were laid.

He was unable to share more information about their investigation due to the upcoming court process.

“I understand the public and Nova Scotia want to hear some information on these fires,” he said. “I just ask for patience as we continue on and bring this matter before the courts.”

DNRR also said they continue to pursue all leads related to the Tantallon wildfire, another significant wildfire that broke out in the Halifax area last spring. Last month, the RCMP said it concluded its investigation into the fire, though DNRR is continuing the probe.

“While the Department has gathered considerable information, there is a high bar for what can be used as evidence in court,” the release said.

“Under the Forests Act, the Department has two years from the date of an alleged offence to lay charges. Charges are only laid if the Department, in consultation with the Public Prosecution Service, believes there is sufficient evidence for a conviction.”

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The Tantallon wildfire began May 28 and burned 969 hectares, destroying 150 homes. It was declared under control on June 4 and extinguished July 26.

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