Rain in Shelburne County allowing crews to attack fire more directly

Annapolis Royal, N.S., volunteer firefighter Jason Rock sprays hotspots in Shelburne County on Saturday morning. (Communications Nova Scotia - image credit)
Annapolis Royal, N.S., volunteer firefighter Jason Rock sprays hotspots in Shelburne County on Saturday morning. (Communications Nova Scotia - image credit)

Crews finished the weekend "with smiles on their face at the end of the day" thanks to a heavy dousing of rain, says a Department of Natural Resources official.

The fire, which has been burning since May 27, is still out of control and covers an area of 24,980 hectares, or about 250 square kilometres.

But Scott Tingley, the director of forest protection for the provincial Department of Natural Resources, said Monday the rain has allowed firefighters to move from a more indirect approach of battling the flames to a direct approach.

He told CBC Radio's Information Morning Nova Scotia that before the rain began, when conditions were tinder-dry, temperatures high and the fire was dangerous to be close to, crews were building fire breaks to try to slow the spread of the blaze.

Now that the fire is starting to cool down, crews are working on the fire perimeter, removing anything that could fuel the flames, patrolling and identifying potentially problematic areas.

Tingley said the status of the fire will remain out of control until officials are confident there are no lingering hotspots that could flare up when the weather warms up again.

The province said Monday there are about 150 Department of Natural Resources (DNR) firefighters working at the site and more than 40 from volunteer and municipal fire departments. Four helicopters are on the scene, as well as four water bombers from Montana.

In addition to the rain that fell throughout the weekend in the area, 15 to 25 millimetres are expected during the day Monday, with another five to 10 millimetres on Monday night and two to four millimetres expected on Tuesday, according to the Environment Canada forecast.

'Everybody's happy to see the rain'

Shelburne resident Louise Lindsay said the rain has buoyed the spirits of residents and firefighters.

"Everybody's happy to see the rain," she told Information Morning Nova Scotia on Monday.

"Things were encouraging yesterday because things that they had put out and would go back to check were actually still out, whereas on Saturday they went back to check places where they've been putting out hotspots and they were burning again. So the rain is making a difference."

Lindsay said firefighters were treated to a surprise dinner at the Birchtown community hall over the weekend, where they got a standing ovation, a sit-down dinner and lobster rolls to go.

Schoolchildren in the area, who have been out of school for about a week, made posters that were put up along the power poles leading to the fire station to say thank you to the firefighters for their work, Lindsay said.

Highway 103 is closed from exit 27 to exit 30 to allow crews to inspect it and ensure its safety.

Other fires outside Halifax are now under control.

Evacuation order lifted for some residents

Some residents of Shelburne County are still under an evacuation order, while others have been permitted to return home. By Monday afternoon, the mandatory evacuation order was lifted for residents of the region spanning:

  • From 2794 Highway 3 (Saint Phillip's Roman Catholic Church/Downey Brook) to 1225 Port Latour Road (including Reynoldscroft, a part of Eel Bay, and Blanche)

  • Oak Park Road

  • River Road

  • Old Post Road

  • Villagedale Road

  • Barrington

  • Smithsville

  • Baccaro

  • McGill Road (McGill Lake area of Upper Clyde Road) to 2461 Upper Clyde Road

  • From Exit 27 along Highway 3 at Birchtown to 1634 Shore Road in Gunning Cove

Shelburne County East Emergency Management/Facebook
Shelburne County East Emergency Management/Facebook

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

Meanwhile, the fire near Lower East Pubnico in Yarmouth County covers 138 hectares, and is also under control.

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.

Health clinics and hospitals

The Roseway Hospital and the Shelburne Community Health Centre — which both closed on May 31 because of the wildfires — will reopen Tuesday.

In a news release on Monday night, the province said most programs and services will be back in operation at Roseway on Tuesday including the emergency department and outpatient blood collection.

Most inpatients who were forced to leave will be transferred back to Roseway on Tuesday.

On Monday and Tuesday, residents will be able to book appointments for non-urgent health 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., at 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.