2020-09-09

Community on edge after woods fire calls over multi-day period

by Keith Corcoran

The fires stopped but the worry still burns within Darlene Robar's psyche.

"If it's not the end of it," the Whynotts Settlement resident said of the series of fires lit near her Leary Fraser Road property, "I'll never feel safe here again."

Volunteer emergency crews were sent nine times to her Lunenburg County community to extinguish fires within a 100-square-metre area. The incidents are deemed "suspicious" by RCMP. The blazes ignited on uninhabited forested areas, police said.

"The investigation is ongoing and we are still looking for information from the public," said Cpl. Lisa Croteau, a spokeswoman for the province's Mounties, told LighthouseNOW.

The Oakhill and district volunteer fire department received two alarms August 27 of separate Leary Fraser Road woods fires.

Six more alarms followed on August 28, with the most serious one at 1:44 p.m., requiring three neighbouring volunteer departments to help snuff out a 12-by-six-metre stretch of burning terrain. The last call that day for the same area came just before midnight. First responders were sent out again August 29 at 9:30 a.m.

Overall, the fires varied in size and intensity but were "similar in nature", Oakhill's fire chief, Corey Zinck, told LighthouseNOW. The incidents have taken place in woods, along the roadway and on private property.

"There was no obvious source of the causes of the fires," Zinck said, noting no structures were burned.

"There were things identified as part of the investigation that led down us down the route of further involvement of the RCMP."

Asked whether or not there was evidence of an accelerant used, Zinck said he knows the answer but won't disclose that information.

Nova Scotia's Office of the Fire Marshal was notified of the matter, in addition to police.

Contingencies were put in place to help try and identify any suspects, the fire chief said, noting the moves have helped and law enforcement was made aware. Zinck won't say what those contingencies involve.

Meanwhile, Robar is among those wanting to know who's responsible for the fires and what's the reasoning behind the incidents. It's concerning during a time when conditions are ripe for wildland fires.

"I'm really upset," said Robar, a Leary Fraser Road resident since the 1980s. Her neighbours are "scared to death," she added.

While confident the area's being watched, Robar's tempted to set up her own cameras.

Zinck advises anyone who notices, or has seen, suspicious activity in the area to contact law enforcement.

"Any small detail could help in the case," he said.

The chief also encouraged motorists and other travellers to call in smoke sightings as it could be a woods fire.

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