Wildfire near Weymouth is 65% contained, province says

Wildfire near Weymouth is 65% contained, province says

Crews at a forest fire southeast of Weymouth, N.S., will remain on the scene until dark and resume fighting the fire Thursday morning, according to a statement from the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables Wednesday evening.

The fire extends over an area of roughly 111 hectares, which is "a significant fire," according to department spokesperson Scott Tingley. It is being "held" in position with 65 per cent of the fire contained, meaning it is not expanding, but is not under control.

As of Wednesday evening, 31 department staff, 22 volunteer fire department firefighters and one helicopter were working in the area.

On Tuesday, Tingley said the fire was spread over an area of roughly 80 hectares, but emphasized that the flames were "patchy" and that the entire area was not on fire.

The reported increase in the size of the affected area, from 80 hectares to 111, does not mean the fire spread, but rather that crews were able to walk the perimeter and better assess the size, the department said.

Paul Schnurr, the wildland fire training officer with the Department of Natural Resources, says crews are patrolling the perimeter of the fire to make sure it doesn't escape the current boundaries.

"We really need to make sure that we extinguish everything along the fire edge so they're really giving it a good soaking and driving water into the ground and tearing up places where embers and stuff might hide, like rotten logs," he said.

Crews will then work their way from the perimeter inward toward the centre to extinguish any hotspots.

Julie Sicot/Radio-Canada
Julie Sicot/Radio-Canada

There have not been any reports of damage from the fire, Tingley said, but some homes have been affected by blowing smoke. The fire is about half a kilometre to one kilometre from the nearest building.

Schnurr said crews are concentrating their efforts along the edge closest to Highway 340.

Tingley said because of dry weather, fire departments are seeing an above-average number of fires at this point in the season.

"You know, it's an indication of an early start and we'll certainly need some patterns of rain to kind of moderate it," he said.

Some residents 'a little anxious'

Several homes voluntarily evacuated on Monday, but no official evacuation orders have been issued.

Wanda Mullen, who lives on Highway 340 in Hassett, said a fire truck was parked on her property on Monday evening and she watched as crews hosed down trees to try and keep the perimeter damp and cool.

She said the crew was gone by Tuesday morning, but a firefighter returned in the afternoon to let her and her husband know the fire had reached the property next door.

"I'm a little anxious, for sure," said Mullen, who has lived in the area for 36 years. "We can see a lot more smoke and the smell of smoke is very strong in the area."

Paul Poirier/CBC
Paul Poirier/CBC

The Havelock Wesleyan Church was being used as a comfort centre and command centre for the operation.

Christy Allen Mullen has lived in Hassett for 25 years and said the community is extremely tight-knit — a place where "everybody talks to everybody."

She said residents have been coming together to help any way they can. She described seeing piles of bottled water and food at the local church.

"Even my mother-in-law was baking yesterday afternoon and taking food over to the firefighters and the crews that were on hand," said Mullen in an interview Tuesday morning.

Department of Natural Resources and Renewables
Department of Natural Resources and Renewables

Tingley said the cause of the fire is still under investigation, but it was likely human activity. There were no reports of lightning in the area.

"We certainly encourage everybody out there who is burning brush around their yard or having a recreational campfire ... conditions can change quickly," said Tingley.

"We just encourage everybody to check the burn restrictions before they light and even when they do, exercise caution and know they're always responsible for the fire."