‘Run ragged’: Annapolis Royal firefighters still battling Seven Mile Lake wildfire

August 11, 2016

By: Cape Breton Post

As of 9 a.m. Aug. 10, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) spokesperson Andrew Preeper said the Seven Mile Lake fire had grown from 240 to 350 hectares since the previous day but about 15 per cent of the blaze was contained.

“They’re saying that there was good progress,” he said, noting that they’ve seen fire breaks in some key areas for the first time since the wildfire broke out last week.

The latest online update from DNR said the weather forecast for Aug. 10 was not favourable.

“Due to the lack of rainfall, extreme fire activity can be expected today, with winds gusting to 40 km/hr out of the southwest, and sustained winds of 15-20 km/hr,” the statement reads.

“Crews will be focused on building guards and reinforcing lines.”

The 21-hectare fire at Maitland Bridge was considered contained as of 9 a.m. Aug. 10.

Annapolis Royal Fire Chief Malcolm Francis said three water bombers from Quebec and 20 DNR technicians from New Brunswick have been brought in to help with the exhausting firefighting efforts.

He said local departments have been “run ragged with other fires popping up.”

Annapolis Royal’s 38-member crew was supposed to have a break while other agencies from out of province and closer to home tended to the Seven Mile Lake and Maitland Bridge blazes Aug. 9.

“The day off was not a day off. We answered three calls yesterday,” he said, referring to a medical call in Delap’s Cove, a now-contained wildfire in West Dalhousie and a report of a bonfire at a private residence.

“It’s tiresome,” he said.

“The biggest concern is new fires are popping up.”

With equipment and manpower dedicated to the Maitland Bridge and Seven Mile Lake fires, Francis stressed that co-operation from the public is imperative while resources are limited. He’s urging all residents to adhere to the fire ban and trail-use restrictions imposed by the provincial government to reduce the risk of wildfires.

“There is absolutely no burning… equipment here in the county is pretty limited right now.”

They’ve yet to determine the cause of the wildfires, which remain under investigation.

“Let’s just put it this way: there is suspicion… with these fires,” said Francis.

As of Wednesday morning, Francis said there was no need for any major residential evacuations as the fires were not considered to be a threat to residences or attractions like the nearby Milford House and Kejimkujik National Park.

“They’re still a good distance away,” said Francis, who stressed that the direction of the fire can quickly change depending on the weather.

A 26-kilometre stretch of Highway 8 remains closed to assist with the firefighting efforts. Departments from several counties have all had boots on the ground to in an attempt to bring the blaze under control.

“They’ve got very harsh conditions to contend with,” said Francis.

“I’ve been a member for 37 years in our fire department and chief for the last six… and I don’t think any of the departments on this scene have ever experienced a fire of this size,” said Francis.

He commended all involved with fighting the fires for putting in many grueling hours at the scene.

“It is taking its toll on a lot of firefighters as well as DNR personnel,” he said.

In the wake of the wildfires, residents and businesses alike have been dropping off donations of food, refreshments and cash at their local fire halls to show their support for the firefighters.

“It’s been absolutely amazing,” said Francis, who noted that the public has come through for them whenever they’ve reached out. “They just can’t seem to do enough.”

Did you know?

Volunteer fire departments in North Queens, Middleton, Lawrencetown, Smith’s Cove, Nictaux, Annapolis Royal, Lunenburg County, Kingston, Bear River, New Germany, Greenfield, Digby and Liverpool all sent members to assist with the Maitland Bridge and Seven Mile Lake fires Aug. 10.

By: Cape Breton Post

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