Wildfires in Canada‘s Nova Scotia province have destroyed or damaged 200 homes and forced 16,000 people to evacuate.

The Atlantic province’s premier, Tim Houston, has announced a ban on woodland activity after visiting the disaster area to get a sense of the damage, which he called “extensive” and “heartbreaking”.

Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, called the fires “incredibly serious” and said the government was standing by to offer assistance if needed.

Where are the Nova Scotia wildfires?

The people evacuated live to the north-west of Halifax, Nova Scotia’s largest city. Most of the homes are within a 30-minute drive of the port city’s downtown. The area under the mandatory evacuation order covers about 100 square kilometers (38 square miles).

Many residents were eager to return on Tuesday to see whether homes and pets had survived, but fire officials expressed concern that dry, windy conditions could cause a “reburn” in the evacuated subdivisions, with no rain expected until Friday at the earliest.

Wildfire map
Map showing locations of wildfires in Nova Scotia (Map: Arcgis)

Firefighters have been working to extinguish hotspots in the fire that started in the Halifax area on Sunday, Halifax deputy fire chief, David Meldrum, said.

He said the lack of rain means it could take the rest of the week to fully tackle the blaze.

The neighbouring province of New Brunswick is also experiencing a wildfire. About 400 homes have been evacuated as firefighters attempt to put out the blaze.

What has caused the fires?

Scott Tingley, the forest protection manager in the province’s wildfire management group, said it is safe to say that all of these fires were “very likely human-caused”.

“Much of it probably is preventable. Accidents do happen and so that’s why we certainly appreciate the premier’s message,” Mr Tingley said.

 Mr Houston has announced a ban on any activity that could start more fires, which extends to all travel and activity in all wooded areas. That includes all forestry, mining, hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, off-road vehicle driving and all commercial activity on government lands.

“Don’t be burning right now. No burning in Nova Scotia,” he said. “Conservation officers reported six illegal burns last night. This is absolutely ridiculous with what’s happening in this province — three out-of-control fires, eight fires yesterday, 12 on Sunday. Do not burn!

“We have to do what we can to make sure we don’t have new fires popping up.”

By admin