Seven Mile Lake wildfire still growing despite ‘significant progress’

Click to play video: 'Wildfire burning near Kejimkujik Park an uphill battle for firefighters' Wildfire burning near Kejimkujik Park an uphill battle for firefighters
An out-of-control wildfire burning near Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia has been growing in size since it started last week – Aug 10, 2016

In a bone-dry province bedevilled with wildfires, the Seven Mile Lake blaze is distinct: About 395 hectares, and out of control for more than a week near one of Nova Scotia’s crown jewels – Kejimkujik National Park.

It’s one of 17 wildfires that have broken out across the province since last week, prompting a highly coordinated fire-fighting effort involving about 200 people from at least five provinces.

READ MORE: What Halifax-area trails have been closed due to provincial travel restrictions?

But by Friday morning, most of those fires had been extinguished or brought under control – and the big Seven Mile Lake blaze was 45 per cent contained, up from 15 per cent three days earlier.

“I can’t say enough what a big accomplishment it is. The work that’s been going on is just wonderful,” said Jim Rudderham, the province’s operations manager for forest protection.

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“It’s not just the people fighting the fires on the ground – there’s a huge support staff involved because they have to be fed, they have to have a place to sleep, they have to have water and they have to have equipment that works.”

A sign near Kejikjukik National Park reads “lets pray for some rain” as the province battles several wildfires throughout Nova Scotia. Alexa MacLean/Global News

The Seven Mile Lake wildfire has been burning for more than a week. Rudderham said it is the largest the province has seen since 2009, when flames ripped through woods in the Spryfield area of Halifax, destroying 10 buildings.

This week, excavators have been digging a “road” around parts of its perimeter right down to the soil in an effort to dig up flammable material and contain the Seven Mile Lake blaze, said Rudderham.

Rudderham said water bombers have been at the head of the fire – the direction in which the blaze is moving – because it is unsafe for firefighters.

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Along the “flanks” of the blaze, its left and right sides, crews are walking with hoses trying to put out flames and maintaining the perimeter, making sure it doesn’t grow larger, said Rudderham.

“That’s what takes the most resources,” said Rudderham. “If you put out 700 feet in the morning and you’ve controlled that, well, somebody has to make sure that stays out, so they have to keep walking back and forth to make sure it’s out.”

The Natural Resources Department said “significant progress” had been made battling the wildfires, aided by some morning fog Friday.

WATCH: Ground crews battling a wildfire near Seven Mile Lake in Annapolis County, Nova Scotia, were pulled out of action for their safety on Monday, August 8, as extremely dry conditions aided the spread of the blaze. Water bombers continued to douse the flames from above, loading up with water from Kejimkujik Lake, as this video shows.
Click to play video: 'Airtanker collects water to fight Nova Scotia wildfire' Airtanker collects water to fight Nova Scotia wildfire
Airtanker collects water to fight Nova Scotia wildfire – Aug 9, 2016

Rudderham said seven fires, including one at Ten Mile Lake, were completely contained on Friday, but were still being patrolled because conditions remain very dry.

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The government said Trunk 8 highway remained closed because of water bombing activity.

Restrictions also remained on activities within forests such as hiking, camping and fishing in a bid to keep more bone-dry woods from going up in flames.

READ MORE: Travel, hiking, activities banned in N.S. wooded areas due to wildfire threat

Air quality advisories or warnings were in place in at least seven Nova Scotia counties, and the province warned people who are sensitive to air quality to stay indoors or somewhere cool, and to keep doors and window closed.

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