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Much-needed rainfall in Shelburne County allows firefighters to “attack” a massive wildfire that has been out of control for nearly a week.
Dave Rockwood, a spokesman for Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources, said the rain early Saturday allowed crews to go on the offensive and “enter the line of fire with a higher degree of security.”
“I warn this rain doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods just yet, but we’re now in a position to kick our ground crews into high gear and get to these places we haven’t been able to set foot in days. kick some as,” Rockwood said in an email sent early Saturday.
The fire in the Barrington Lake area remained about 23,015 acres, or 230 square miles, as of Saturday morning.
It is believed to be the largest wildfire ever recorded in Nova Scotia.
There are only 5 active forest fires in NS
At a press conference Saturday afternoon, Prime Minister Tim Houston said there are now only five active wildfires burning in the county, down from 10 this morning. He said the Barrington Lake fire is the only one out of control.
He reminded Nova Scotians that the province-wide ban on burning introduced earlier this week remains in effect.
“It’s raining now,” Houston said. That doesn’t mean you can burn. The site is still very dry…don’t burn it.”
He said the focus in Shelburne County is now on assessing property damage and contacting owners, while also assessing evacuations in the area.
Houston said all schools in Shelburne County will be closed Monday and Tuesday as crews continue to fight the wildfires.
Some evacuees were allowed to return home
Following the briefing, an emergency warning was issued to lift evacuation orders for Lake Road and Sandy Point as far as Jordan Branch Road, just south of the town of Shelburne.
There was a smaller fire in the area on Wednesday, but it is now contained to about 114 acres, Rockwood said at the briefing Saturday.
“Wildland firefighters have made significant progress in fighting the 114-acre Lake Road fire,” the alert said.
“At this time, it is safe for residents in those evacuation zones to return to their homes.”
Crews hard at work
DNR said it has 90 firefighters working Saturday on the Barrington Lake blaze, along with 40 volunteer municipal firefighters and a crew of 18 from Newfoundland and Labrador. One water bomber and five helicopters are on scene.
Rockwood, who is stationed at the command post in Shelburne County, told CBC Radios Weekend mornings later in the morning crews in the area were happy with the overnight rain.
“We’ve had a lot of laughs here…I’m not sure how much (rain) we’ve had, but our crews are checking that today,” he said.
The area is expected to receive more rainfall, which could help if the wind picks up.
“But with the increase in humidity, we’re going to see less intensity, so we’re not expecting a great run like we saw in the first — I can’t even remember — several days,” Rockwood said.
He added that the area will receive more support in the coming days. He said a group of US firefighters crossed the Canadian border and should arrive sometime this weekend to help, with more to arrive on Monday.
Another fire in Yarmouth County is also contained. The fire at Pubnico covered some 163 acres on Saturday morning.
Rockwood said the fire didn’t grow overnight.