Canadian firefighters are fighting the biggest wildfire in the history of the Atlantic province. The fire on the southern tip of the province has burned over 17,000 hectares (42,000+ acres), with flamelengths reaching nearly 100m (328 feet). And another fire near Halifax has forced the evacuation of thousands of residents. Smoke has drifted south, triggering air quality warnings in the U.S., according to BBC News reports.
Nova Scotia officials said the fire’s burning in Shelburne County and about 50 homes have been destroyed. Dave Rockwood with the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources told reporters that the fire’s very fast-moving. He said about 5,000 people were evacuated, according to reports from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). A smaller fire near Halifax earlier burned about 200 homes and evacuated over 16,000 people.
According to an ALJAZEERA report, the fires were causing poor air quality hundreds of kilometers away, but federal help was coming — along with about 100 firefighters from the U.S. — after local authorities appealed for outside assistance. Canada’s federal government had already provided airlifts, aerial surveillance, crew comfort trailers, and food at the emergency shelters, said Sean Fraser, a cabinet minister and parliament member from Nova Scotia.
“We’re in a crisis in the province and we want and we need and we will take all the support we can get,” Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston told a news conference on Wednesday. “Unprecedented resources are being used because these fires are unprecedented.” Additional resources have been shipped in from Ontario, and a dozen water bombers from neighboring regions and the Coast Guard have been engaged. Houston said he has also asked for military assistance.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the wildfires “heartbreaking” and promised unlimited support.
On Wednesday, Nova Scotia officials increased the fine for breaking the provincewide burn ban — a restriction on outdoor fires — to $25,000 CAD (almost $19,000 USD). Officials said rain is not forecasted for the region until Friday, and they remain unsure on when residents can return to their homes.
Canada’s federal government announced today that it will be sending more resources to help Nova Scotia. This includes military personnel, as well as additional firefighters to help relieve those who have been working on the ground for days. More than 300 firefighters from the U.S. and South Africa are en route to Canada in the coming days. Some will be sent to Nova Scotia, while others are headed for Alberta.