There’s now a ban on all travel and activity in woods across Nova Scotia, as wildfires continue to burn in the province, including a fire in East Pubnico that started on Monday night.

Premier Tim Houston announced the travel and activity ban at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

“We’re going to stop the travel. We have to do what we can to make sure we don’t have any new fires popping up,” Houston said. “This includes hiking, camping, fishing, use of off-highway vehicles. It applies to forestry, it applies to mining, it applies to commercial activity on Crown lands, hunting and fishing … We’re in a very serious situation in this province and we need to take the steps to protect Nova Scotians.”

While there’s a province-wide burn ban, Houston said there were six illegal fires reported on Monday.

“Don’t be burning right now. No burning in Nova Scotia,” Houston said. “This is absolutely ridiculous with what’s happening in this province. No burning. For God’s sake, stop burning. Stop flicking your cigarette butts out of your car window. Just stop it. Our resources are stretched incredibly thin right now fighting existing fires. We have to protect our resources where possible.”

Houston said more details on the travel and activity ban will be released soon.

Fire in East Pubnico ‘out of control’

Scott Tingley, manager of forest protection with the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables, said there are currently 13 active wildfires across the province. Three of those fires are out of control: Tantallon, Shelburne County, and a fire that started in the East Pubnico area on Monday night.

“It was last reported as 46 hectares, but it is expected to grow today,” Tingley said of the fire in East Pubnico. “Crews were on it all evening last night and early this morning with helicopters. We diverted one of the Newfoundland bombers over to that fire at one point, and we had crews on the ground, but they’ve been challenged this afternoon with the hot, dry weather. And so, we’re currently experiencing some challenges with that, but we will wait to see how the afternoon goes.”

In Shelburne County, 2,000 residents from 600 homes have been evacuated. Tingley said the fire in the Shelburne/Barrington area was a “very challenging” situation with hot, dry weather again on Tuesday. That fire started on Saturday night near Barrington Lake and is out of control and covers 10,000 hectares.

Tingley said they are priortizing resources that are coming in and the department has put in a request to Newfoundland and Labrador for additional hose lines to be sent to Nova Scotia. Crews who were sent to the Northwest Territories are returning today and will be deployed “immediately” to those fires. 

Tingley said a crew arrived from P.E.I. and will be deployed to the fires, as will additional staff from the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables. Tingley added department officials were on a call from partners in the northeast U.S. and Tingley said they heard “encouraging reports” about getting additional supports from that area.

“We have lots of help and we’ve reached far and wide and lots of people are stepping up,” Tingley said.

RCMP Chief Supt. Sue Black said for anyone who wants to get pets, RCMP are escorting residents in the Tantallon area on a “case-by-case basis.”

She said for residents in the Shelburne or Barrington area who have pets they’d like to get from their homes, they can contact the Shelburne or Barrington detachments of the RCMP to discuss options.

Fire in Shelburne, Barrington

Eddie Nickerson is the warden of the Municipality of Barrington. He lives on Cape Sable Island where he can see smoke from his home, but he drives to exit 30 on Highway 103, the border of the evacuation area, where he said he can see the red glow of the fire.

“I know there are people out there who are concerned about their homes, and we certainly take that into consideration, and feel bad about the situation, but right now they’re trying their best to fight the fire and protect structures, and more importantly, saving people’s lives from being lost, firefighters and residents. It certainly isn’t a good situation at all.”

Nickerson said a comfort centre is set up at Sandy Wickens Memorial Arena and about 30 people stayed there overnight. He said other groups, including the local fire department, Lions Club, and the Town of Clarke’s Harbour, have offered facilities as well. The municipality and the community is also providing food for those residents displaced by the fires.

A map of Tantallon and Hammonds Plains is shaded different colours.
A map showing the “area of significant impact” in the Tantallon fire, along with the evacuation area and state of local emergency zone. Credit: HRM

“I can’t express our thanks enough,” Nickerson said. “The support from our community has been overwhelming. Fisheries groups, Lions Clubs, individual people, churches, and fire department volunteers, ladies auxiliaries. It’s a community effort here and everybody is trying their best.”

Nickerson encouraged anyone in the area to call the Municipality of Barrington at 902-637-7899 for assistance.

“Listen to the guys that are asking you to do what they want you to do,” Nickerson said. “If they want you evacuate your home because they think you are in danger, I would like to see that happen. If you can make any contributions, certainly contact the people that are in charge and looking after the situation and tell them what you can do. Everyone needs help somewhere, even if it’s a senior in a home that has no transportation.”

Click here to visit our Nova Scotia wildfires resource page.

Suzanne Rent is a writer, editor, and researcher. You can follow her on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent and on Mastodon

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