Low­est wild­fires num­bers since 1940s recorded in N.S. this year

Annapolis Valley Register - - NEWS - IAN FAIR­CLOUGH SALTWIRE NET­WORK

The sum­mer of 2019 was hot. And dry. But de­spite that, the prov­ince saw its low­est num­ber of wild­fires in more than 70 years.

There were 143 fires across the prov­ince this year, the fewest since there were 110 in 1948, sta­tis­tics from the prov­ince's Depart­ment of Lands and Forestry show.

The low num­ber was due in large part to the wet spring and then the hu­mid sum­mer, said Kara Mc­Curdy, the depart­ment's fire preven­tion of­fi­cer.

“It doesn't re­ally mat­ter how cool it is, it can be re­ally cool out­side and dry, and fires will spread,” she said. "Low hu­mid­ity and high wind will mean a bet­ter chance of fire spread, but high hu­mid­ity and low wind means it's not re­ally go­ing to go any­where.”

And that was what much of the sum­mer was like.

“It cer­tainly had po­ten­tial this year for fires to hap­pen. It was dry pretty much from July on­ward,” she said.

“We do have fires in the fall, but what we have on our side is that the days are shorter. It's cool­ing down and hu­mid­ity is go­ing up at night, we're get­ting frost, we're get­ting dew on the grass, so we don't have as many fires.”

The fires this year didn't spread far, for the most part.

“What’s re­ally significan­t is the area burned,” Mc­Curdy said. "We had 154 hectares burn this year, which is ba­si­cally one hectare per fire.”

The largest fire was in Shel­burne County, and burned 19 hectares.

Most of the fires burned open ar­eas. About 94 hectares of the land burned was in boggy ar­eas, alders and open grass, 24 were in soft­wood, 15 in mixed for­est, 11 were clear cut ar­eas and nine were in hard­wood stands.

“That's un­usual, be­cause we nor­mally get a real mix and a lot of soft­wood stands, but those num­bers were fairly low,” Mc­Curdy said.

As has been the case for years, the top cause of for­est fires was hu­man ac­tiv­ity such as il­le­gal burn­ing, ar­son and poorly ex­tin­guished camp­fires.

While there is usu­ally at least one fire caused every year by a light­ning strike, there were none this year, Mc­Curdy said.

“We did see an in­crease in camp­fire-re­lated fires. The in­ter­est­ing thing about (those) is that they’re hap­pen­ing in re­mote ar­eas. That’s scary, be­cause they’re harder to get at.”

Some of those fires this year in­cluded along lake edges, in wilder­ness ar­eas and back coun­try.

“It’s con­cern­ing that there are folks go­ing out there hav­ing camp­fires and not prop­erly putting them out,” Mc­Curdy said. “We want to make sure peo­ple know that if they're go­ing to have a camp­fire, you have to make sure it is out by mak­ing it cold to the touch.”

Of the fires, 116 were on pri­vate land, 24 on Crown land, and one each on First Na­tions prop­erty, a pro­vin­cial park and a wilder­ness area.

The bulk of the fires — 135 — hap­pened dur­ing times when burn­ing was not per­mit­ted.

The depart­ment has a web page that in­di­cates when burn­ing is al­lowed.

“I'm not so sure it's a mat­ter of peo­ple not pay­ing at­ten­tion to the site,” Mc­Curdy said be­cause the page is one of the most vis­ited on the prov­ince's servers.

“I think it's just the aware­ness

... some folks aren't quite used to the new sys­tem yet,” she said.

She said the re­duced fire num­bers could also be con­nected to peo­ple us­ing the map and un­der­stand­ing when they can burn.

The fire sea­son in the prov­ince runs from March 15 to Oct. 15 every year.


A fire can be seen in the woods on the shore of Panuke Lake in West Hants on Aug. 21.

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