As crews battle three wildfires in western Nova Scotia, the province is restricting activity within forests in a bid to keep more bone-dry woods from going up in flames.
“We can manage the fires we’ve got. If we get many more, it’s going to cause great concern for us,” Natural Resources Minister Lloyd Hines said Monday, who warned the risk of more fires is “high.”
Restrictions on hiking, camping fishing, use of off-highway vehicles, and certain commercial activities will come into effect at noon on Tuesday.
“The primary objective here … is to enlist the public’s help in trying to reduce the risk,” Hines said in an interview. “The reality is, most of the fires we’re aware of that start in the province start with human activity.”
Hines said the fires in Maitland Bridge and Greenfield have been contained at roughly 21 hectares and five hectares respectively. The blaze at Seven Mile Lake is considered out of control and has grown to 140 hectares.
The fires in Annapolis and Queens counties broke out last Thursday.
The minister said some areas are facing the driest conditions the province has seen in 15 years, which was also the last time similar restrictions were imposed on forest access.
Hines said the province is directing “all available resources” to fight the fire at Seven Mile Lake at a cost of approximately $200,000 per day.
“One could say it’s burning through our resources,” Hines said. “There’s also a safety issue. We’ve got our (fire crews) working in dangerous conditions , and we don’t need any other fires to start somewhere else in our province.”
New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador have deployed water bombers to aid the effort at Seven Mile Lake.
Walter Fanning, an executive director at the Department of Natural Resources, said the province can call on the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre if it needs additional back up, or recruit resources from New England.
Hines said the restriction will be reassessed in two weeks. Until then, he acknowledged the restrictions may pose an inconvenience for Nova Scotians, but does not think tourism in the province will take a dramatic hit.
“There are a lot of places in Nova Scotia for people to see that doesn’t require going through our woods,” he said. “Our beaches and our parks — all of that is still open.”
Hines said forestry, mining and other commercial industries will have to obtain permits to work on Crown land. Hunters and fishermen will also require travel permits.
Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press