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Much-needed rainfall in Shelburne County is allowing firefighters to “attack” a massive wildfire that has been burning out of control for nearly a week.
Dave Rockwood, a spokesperson with Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources, said early Saturday the rain has allowed crews to go on the offensive and “get on the fire line with a higher degree of safety.”
“I will caution that this rain does not yet mean we are out of the woods, but we are now able to have our ground crews kick it into high gear and get into these places we have not been able to set foot on in days to kick some ash,” Rockwood said in an email sent early Saturday.
The fire burning in the Barrington Lake area remained about 23,015 hectares in size, or 230-square kilometres, as of Saturday morning.
It’s considered to be the largest wildfire ever recorded in Nova Scotia.
Only 5 active wildfires remain in N.S.
During a news briefing Saturday afternoon, Premier Tim Houston said there are now only five active wildfires burning in the province, down from 10 this morning. He said the Barrington Lake fire is the only one out of control.
He reminded Nova Scotians that the provincewide burn ban that was implemented earlier this week remains in effect.
“It is raining right now,” Houston said. “That doesn’t mean you can burn. The grounds are still very dry … do not burn.”
He said the focus in Shelburne County is now assessing property damage and contacting owners, while also reviewing evacuations in the area.
Houston said all schools in Shelburne County will be closed Monday and Tuesday as crews continue to battle the wildfire.
Some evacuees allowed to return home
Following the briefing, an emergency alert was issued lifting evacuation orders for Lake Road and Sandy Point through to the Jordan Branch Road, just south of the Town of Shelburne.
A smaller fire had sparked in the area on Wednesday, but it is now being held at about 114 hectares, Rockwood said at the briefing Saturday.
“Wildland firefighters have made significant progress working on the 114-[hectare] Lake Road wildfire,” 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 on the Barrington Lake fire Saturday, along with 40 volunteer municipal firefighters and a crew of 18 from Newfoundland and Labrador. There is one water bomber and five helicopters on scene.
Rockwood, who is based at the command post in Shelburne County, told CBC Radio’s Weekend Mornings later in the morning that crews in the area were pleased to get the rain overnight.
“We got a lot of smiles down here … I’m not sure how much [rain] we got, but our crews are checking on that today,” he said.
The area is expected to get more rain, which could help as the wind picks up.
“But with the increase in the humidity, we’re going to see less intensity, so we’re not anticipating any great run like we’ve seen over the initial — I can’t even remember — but a number of days,” Rockwood said.
He added that the area will be getting more support in the coming days. He said a group of American firefighters have crossed the Canadian border and should arrive sometime this weekend to help, with more arriving Monday.
Another fire in Yarmouth County is also being held in check. The fire near Pubnico was about 163 hectares on Saturday morning.
Rockwood said the fire hadn’t grown overnight.