'Beautiful rainy day': Shelburne County wildfire is out of control, but optimism abounds

'Beautiful rainy day': Shelburne County wildfire is out of control, but optimism abounds

It's been a hectic week for fire crews and support staff tackling a historic wildfire in Shelburne County, but heavy rainfall this weekend and reinforcements from the U.S. are helping lighten the load for firefighters.

"It's this beautiful rainy day," Dave Rockwood, spokesperson for Nova Scotia's Department of National Resources, said Sunday.

"Thirty five millimetres of rain has fallen in the last 24 hours, and according to the weather report, we're looking at 10 and 15 throughout the day … and another 10 to 15 overnight. If we get that we're going to be feeling a whole lot better."

The Highway 103 corridor, a crucial connector in the area, remained closed between exits 27 and 30 on Monday morning. A tweet from the Public Works Department said crews are inspecting the highway to make sure it is safe and notice will be sent when the highway reopens.

As of 3 p.m. the Barrington Lake fire in Shelburne County was at 24,980 hectares, he said. It is the largest wildfire on record for Nova Scotia.

Local crews have been kept busy since the fire started last Friday. Rockwood said his main concern now is to make sure to limit fatigue and to avoid any slips, trips and falls.

The arrival of firefighters from New Hampshire and New York, who will be out in the woods today, will also help. "That's gonna help keep the rest of us that have been around a lot longer, keep us safe, keep us rested," he said.

The Lake Road fire, just south of Shelburne, is being held at 114 hectares. It has not grown since Saturday, said Rockwood, and some residents who'd been evacuated have been allowed to return to their homes.

Meanwhile, the fire in Pubnico, at 138 hectares, has been in check since Saturday at noon.

In total, 192 personnel are working on the fires, along with 49 pieces of heavy equipment, said Rockwood.

On Sunday afternoon, the province lifted restrictions on travel and activities in the woods in all areas except for Shelburne County and anywhere evacuation orders are in place, effective at midnight.

Activities that are now permitted include hiking, camping, fishing and the use of vehicles in the woods. The provincewide burn ban remains in place and the fine for a violation is $25,000.

''Community effort'

Eddie Nickerson, the warden of the Municipality of Barrington, says his community has come together in a big way in the past week.

"Everybody has something to do," he said. "If they're not out fighting the fire, they're at the community centre helping out. If they're not volunteering, they're putting people up in their homes. It is a community effort."

He feels the mood lifting around town with this weekend's rain.

"Usually it's the sunshine that brings on that attitude, this time it's the grey clouds and the rain," he said.

Health clinics

On Monday and Tuesday, residents will be able to book appointments for non-urgent care at the Barrington Community Health Clinic, where a mobile clinic will be operating, anytime from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Residents are asked to call 902-637-1378 to set up an appointment and to call back if they're unable to get through.

A mobile clinic for non-urgent care is currently open until Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. the Shelburne Community Centre.

The Shelburne Family Practice team is offering primary care appointments by phone. To book, call 902-637-1378.

Queens Family Health in Liverpool is offering primary care appointments for people in Barrington or Shelburne. Call 902-354-3322 from Monday to Friday.

Mental Health and addictions staff will be at the Sandy Wickens Memorial Arena in Barrington and the Shelburne Community Centre until Monday at 5 p.m.

For a full list of mental health supports available for people impacted by the wildfires, click here.

4 U.S. water bombers in Greenwood

Four of six CL-415 water bombers expected to arrive in Nova Scotia from Montana have landed in Greenwood. With the rain, they aren't expected to be needed Sunday, Rockwood said.

Although the rain is much-needed, there's still plenty of work to be done on the ground in Shelburne County, said Rockwood.

"The big thing we've got to try and figure out is how deep this fire went into the ground, and how deep that organic layer is there, because that's where it can get down and hide and pop back up," he said.

"That's what we want to make sure doesn't happen."

Ryan Snoddon/CBC
Ryan Snoddon/CBC

Special weather statement for much of N.S.

In southwestern and central Nova Scotia, which includes Shelburne County, a special weather statement is in effect from Sunday to Tuesday morning, where 40-80 millimetres of rain, and possibly more, are expected.

According to CBC meteorologist Ryan Snoddon, a "band of steady to heavy rain will move west to east across Nova Scotia today thru Monday night, with showers and drizzle continuing elsewhere."

He said there's still some uncertainty about where the heaviest rainfall will be, but that 20-40 millimetres are expected across most of the Maritimes by Tuesday morning.