Two Nova Scotia wildfires continue to burn uncontrolled

Smoke is seen on the horizon over Maitland Bridge, N.S. Two out-of-control wildfires are burning in the area. Andy Mansfield

Two wildfires burning out of control in Nova Scotia didn’t grow overnight but are still causing traffic delays on Hwy 8.

The 43-kilometre stretch of highway is open to traffic but officials are warning it could be down to one lane at times and say motorists should expect long delays. The area affected is between the gates at Kejimkujik National Park and Lake Larose in Annapolis County.

Seven Mile Lake in Annapolis County is the site of the largest fire at 90 hectares, the Department of Natural Resources’ forest protection operations manager Jim Rudderham said. The smaller fire is burning in Maitland Bridge, N.S. and is approximately 24 hectares in size.

No residents or buildings are at risk from the fires, Rudderham said.

As of Sunday morning, Rudderham said the fires weren’t openly burning anymore but are still uncontrolled.

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Dry soil making firefighting conditions more difficult

According to Environment Canada there has been little to no rain in the area for the last few weeks. For example, it has not rained at all at Kejimkujik since July 26, and the last significant rainfall was on July 10 with 12.3 mm of rain.

“We’re in a state where the moisture levels in the ground are extremely low,” Department of Natural Resources forest resources technician Dave Steeves said Saturday evening. “So basically what that means is when a fire burns over, it burns into the ground and the ground will actually hold the fire for extended periods of time.”

That makes the firefighting effort even more difficult because it takes crews longer to put out the fire in any given spot before they can move on to the next, Steeves said.

“We are lucky that we’re in a spot where there are no structures threatened but it’s still an extremely dangerous situation given the winds and the fuel that are available,” Steeves said.

Despite the conditions, Steeves said it’s not the first time he’s seen a summer this dry in Nova Scotia.

Smell of smoke in the air

A shift in winds overnight means visitors at Kejimkujik and residents in Maitland Bridge might smell smoke throughout the day, Rudderham said.

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Winds are now coming from the northwest pushing the smoke into more populated areas, he said.

At Kejimkujik, visitor experience manager Sophie Borcoman said there’s no visible smoke in the national park but people can smell it.

“There is certainly no risk to visitors and we’re going on about business as usual in the park,” Borcoman said.

The fire index in the park has reached extreme, which is as dry as it can get on the fire index.

Crews need ‘an act of nature’ 

Fire crews are expected to remain on scene for at least the rest of the week, Rudderham said.

Weather conditions are expected to stay dry, sunny, and hot throughout the week according to Environment Canada. Those conditions won’t make extinguishing the fires easy, Steeves said.

“It’s going to take probably an act of nature to be honest with you,” he said. “We’re going to have to have an extended period of precipitation in order to fully extinguish this.”

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