Authorities in the eastern Canadian province of Nova Scotia are appealing for outside help, as firefighters battle raging fires that have forced more than 16,000 people from their homes.
Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said Wednesday that his government has received help from other provinces, including more water pumps, and has contacted officials in the northeastern United States to request more resources.
Dozens of firefighters are battling to contain two large out-of-control fires near the provincial capital of Halifax. Fourteen fires are burning all over the province, causing cloudy skies and anxiety among residents.
“We have a crisis in the province. And we want, and we need, and we’re going to take all the support we can get,” Houston said during a news conference.
“Unprecedented resources are being used because these fires are unprecedented.”
Our teams of firefighters and first responders continue to fight the fires today. I am very grateful for the wonderful work they are doing throughout the province. Thank you.
— Tim Houston (@TimHoustonNS) May 31, 2023
Fire officials in Nova Scotia, home to more than 1 million people on Canada’s Atlantic coast, warned that gusty winds and low humidity Wednesday could fuel the Tantallon Fire, which continues to burn burning about 30km (19 miles) west of Halifax.
The fire has grown to about 837 hectares (2,068 acres), authorities said in a statement, while two more in the Barrington Lake and Pubnico areas are also considered out of control.
The Halifax Regional Municipality said the fires have so far destroyed or damaged more than 200 structures – mostly homes – and forced nearly 16,500 people on the run, but no injuries were reported.
“People are understandably tired, frustrated and scared,” said Halifax Mayor Mike Savage.
Houston, the premier, announced late Tuesday a ban on all activities in Nova Scotia’s forests, including hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, the use of off-road vehicles and logging. Violation fines across the province burning ban also raised to $18,400 ($25,000 Canadian).
“For God’s sake, stop burning. Stop flicking a cigarette butt out of the car window. Just stop. Our resources are stretched thin right now fighting existing fires,” Houston said.
The wildfires also led to the evacuation of about 400 homes in the neighboring province of New Brunswick over the weekend, officials said.
“The stories and the images we’re seeing coming out of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are heartbreaking,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa, pledging federal support.
“We know that people are very, very sad about what happened. As a federal government we are there, we are there to support,” he said.
– RCMP Nova Scotia (@RCMPNS) May 31, 2023
Many experts point to climate change as a factor that has exacerbated extreme weather such as forest fires, heat waves and tropical storms around the world.
Canada’s western provinces of Alberta and British Columbia are also dealing with unusually hot weather that has fueled several wildfires, cutting oil and gas production in the region. However, most of those fires have been brought under control.
The Halifax wildfires are expected to cause poor air quality hundreds of kilometers to the south, in parts of the US East Coast and Midwest, as smoke drifts across the region.
Air quality alerts are in effect for eastern and western sections of Michigan, northern Ohio and parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, due to high concentrations of pollutants in the forecast, the US National Weather Service (NWS) said.