Massive wildfires continue to rage across the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, leading to the destruction of hundreds of buildings and the evacuation of over 16 000 residents. As of Tuesday afternoon, May 30, 2023, the fires, which have primarily affected areas around the capital Halifax, have resulted in no reported injuries or missing persons. However, the extent of the damage is significant, with an estimated 200 homes or structures destroyed.
The Canadian province of Nova Scotia is currently grappling with a series of wildfires that have led to the evacuation of more than 16 000 people and the destruction of approximately 200 homes or structures.
Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston described the damage as “extensive” and “heartbreaking” during a news conference on Tuesday afternoon. In response to the ongoing crisis, authorities have temporarily banned activities and travel in Nova Scotia’s woods, including hiking, camping, and fishing. A burn ban is also in effect.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 13 fires were burning, with at least three of them being out of control, according to Scott Tingley, manager of forest protection for the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables. The newest fire, spanning about 50 ha (123 acres), was burning in the Pubnico area but was not near any homes.
Firefighting crews are working tirelessly to protect homes and other structures at risk of destruction. However, the growing number of fires has overwhelmed their resources, leading authorities to seek help from other agencies.
The causes of the fires remain under investigation, but all of them are “very likely” caused by humans, possibly accidentally, according to Tingley. The smoke from the wildfires is affecting visibility on some roads and poses a danger to public health.
The Barrington Lake wildfire, currently the largest fire on record in Nova Scotia, continues to expand at an alarming rate. By Tuesday night, the fire had almost doubled in size from Monday, engulfing 19 000 ha (46 949 acres) and surpassing the previous record set by the Trafalgar fire in Guysborough County in 1974.
The wildfire, fueled by scrub brush and stunted softwoods, shows no signs of slowing down, with winds further fanning its spread. Alarmingly, the Barrington Lake fire has already burned more land than the combined total of 3 664 fires from 2006 to 2021, which accounted for 11 571 ha (28 597 acres).
In fact, since 2006, this is only the fourth year that fire losses have exceeded 1 000 ha (2 471 acres). The other years include 2006, 2008 when the 1 925-ha (4 754-acre) Porters Lake fire broke out, and last year when the Horseshoe Lake Fire burned 3 200 ha (7 907 acres), almost all of the year’s total.
Environment Canada and the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness issued a special air quality statement on Tuesday, warning residents of the dangers of inhaling wildfire smoke, especially those with lung and heart disease.
The wildfires in Nova Scotia come on the heels of similar incidents in the Canadian province of Alberta earlier this month, which produced so much smoke that it crossed into the U.S. and prompted air quality warnings in several states.
1 Destructive Nova Scotia wildfires force thousands of Canadians to flee their homes – NPR – May 30, 2023
2 By the numbers: More land burned in Barrington Lake fire than in all 2006-2022 N.S. wildfires combined – SaltWire – May 30, 2023
Featured image credit: Copernicus EU/Sentinel-2. Processed by Pierre Markuse
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