PORT LORNE, NS – Firefighters from two departments were on the scene of a grass fire on School House Road near Port Lorne Thursday afternoon, stopping the blaze just inside the tree line.
Port Lorne Chief Stephen Wade said he suspects the April 12 fire was set but can’t prove it. Parts of the same field had burned in previous weeks. This time flames burned the dry grass right up to the road and the wind took it east towards a home at the end of the road.
Port Lorne firefighters, who were called out at 3:17 p.m., were joined by their Bridgetown colleagues hauling tanks on their backs and manually dousing hot spots in the field.
Firefighters also lugged small hose back into the woods on the north side of the field to quench flames and wet down everything at the tree line for several hundred metres.
The Department of Natural Resources also had crew at the scene and by 5 p.m. the Bridgetown help was able to head back to the hall while the Port Lorne crew stayed on for a short while longer.
Bridgetown Captain Daniel Cheeseman was at the scene and as a spokesman for the Annapolis County Fire Services Association cautioned people about spring burning.
He said many fire departments responded to wild fires throughout the day April 12 and with lack of snow to damp it down, the old grass from last year has dried out.
“Those top layers of grass that are now dead create a fuel surface that allow it to burn very quickly,” he said. “With the winds and the sun we’ve had this last week it dries out very, very quickly and produces conditions that allow fires to spread very rapidly. They’re not deep-seated fires in the spring, however they spread very rapidly and become a nuisance especially with the tradition of spring burning that seems to happen every year.”
He said there are very real dangers associated with fires such as the one on School House Road that burned several acres between two residences. Homes and outbuildings in the path of a grass fire can easily go up in flames.
“When you choose to light a grass fire or brush fire, you’re putting both yourself at risk, your neighbours at risk, and your family,” he said. “While there are a lot of myths around spring burning, at the end of the day it’s really not worth it. If you do absolutely have to do it, you have to make sure you check www.novascotia.ca/burnsafe. That map is updated daily by Nova Scotia DNR and it’s there for a reason – to give you some guidance. At the end of the day whether your fire’s allowed or not, if it gets out of control you’re still libel for it. And at the end of the day volunteers still have to come out and put these fires out if they do get out of control. A little bit of due diligence goes a long way and we encourage everyone to follow the Burn Safe rules.”
Cheeseman said it’s not just in the spring that people need to be aware of what they’re doing when they light fires of any type.
“From March 15 to October 15 annually is what they call the wildfire risk season,” he said. “When you’re in that season you have to check the map every day at 2 p.m. At 2 p.m. every day Nova Scotia Natural Resources updates that website – whether the conditions are favourable for burning after 2 p.m., whether they’re restricted which means you can burn but only after 7 p.m. until 8 a.m. the next morning, or what they consider it a ‘no-burn’ day which would be a day that is not favourable whatsoever to burn. That includes domestic brush, open fires whether it be in a burn barrel or a pile – including camp fires with the exception of campgrounds, they fall under little bit different rules.”
He said people are also encouraged to check their municipal regulations.
“I know the County of Annapolis follows that of DNR, so there’s no difference,” he said. “Residents in the Town of Middleton and the Town of Annapolis Royal should refer to their municipal bylaws to insure there is not a separate bylaw for the town limits.