CHELSEA - Nova Scotia's Department of Natural Resources and Renewables (DNRR) is investigating the cause of the blaze that burned a couple hectares of terrain and temporarily forced people from their homes, says the chief of the volunteer fire department serving the Chelsea area.
Just before noon on Tuesday, May 16, Tri-district volunteer firefighters were sent to New Elm Road where they found "a lot of smoke and a lot of fire," the fire chief, Paul Hayes, said.
Conditions dictated emergency crews would need help from multiple agencies to get the flames extinguished. Wind gusts were pushing six-metre-high flames which were impacting an undeveloped area being cleared, toward stands of high timber, Hayes said in a phone interview.
Department of Environment and Climate Change weather data, available online, showed winds in excess of 20 km/h in the area.
There was "a lot of dead fall on the ground" in "very dry" circumstances, Hayes said.
Four additional fire departments assisted with working the incident, located about 20 kilometres west of Bridgewater, while a couple of others provided stand-by coverage at other stations. Conquerall Bank firefighters with medical first response expertise helped with firefighter rehabilitation on scene.
A DNRR helicopter with water-drop capabilities dumped a few loads on the fire, Hayes said, and responders on the ground were able to get lines around the flames "to keep it at bay" and prevent it from going deep into the woods. At the height of the incident, four dozen personnel were trying to extinguish the flames. There isn't a hydrant system in the rural community, so fire department tankers provided water supply.
If the fire had escalated, Hayes said the flames likely would have burned up the lengths of numerous trees with embers jumping the road just 60 metres away.
The evacuated homes weren't damaged and the residents were allowed to return after 6 p.m. At one point, the fire "was only about 150 metres away from a couple" of the dwellings, Hayes said.
No one was hurt.
A herd of horses in the Chelsea area were also temporarily moved to the South Shore Exhibition grounds in Bridgewater as a safety precaution. Regional emergency management considers the grounds a preferred site for livestock shelter in cases of evacuation.
Hayes said fire crews cleared from the call at about 8 p.m. and turned the scene over to DNRR officials who planned to look into the cause.
Blaze in Walden
Meanwhile, several days earlier, on Wed, May 10, volunteer firefighters in Walden went to Turner Point Drive where a lean-to next to a cottage burned and spread along the ground.
Three additional departments assisted with fire suppression at the scene, located about 35 kilometres northeast of Bridgewater. The alarm came just before 3:30 p.m.
"The fire was racing through the woods and lots of spit fires were popping up," Walden's fire chief, Melanie Langille, said in a phone interview.
The small structure was destroyed but the property owner's cottage, about six metres away, wasn't damaged and neither were neighbouring homes, Langille said.
She credited the mutual aid partners for their quick response and significant help in getting the incident under control and the flames out.
The cause of the fire, which burned about a half hectare, is undetermined, the chief added. No one was hurt.