Officials promote wildfire resilience strategies in Queens County

PORT JOLI - At least a couple dozen people attended a public event in Queens County to learn more about how to best withstand the risks of wildland fires in their communities, says a Parks Canada official.

"We're living in a world where climate change is happening; we're seeing the fires expanding rapidly in western Canada over the weekend (and) we had significant catastrophic fires last year in Nova Scotia," said Andy Sharpe, Parks Canada's resource conservation manager responsible for mainland Nova Scotia.

Evacuation orders and alerts were issued in parts of Western Canada this month as major wildfires impact Alberta and British Columbia.

Volunteer firefighters with departments in Queens and Lunenburg counties deployed to Shelburne County in late May and early June last year to help extinguish a massive wildland blaze that consumed over 23,000 hectares, the size equivalent of 29,000 soccer fields. The fire forced thousands of people to evacuate and destroyed five dozen homes. The incident was declared under control on June 13 and extinguished on July 26.

Sharpe said the afternoon event on May 7 at Kejimkujik National Park Seaside, which encompasses large swaths of wildland in Port Joli and South West Port Mouton, highlights the value of fire prevention strategies that strengthen a community's ability to thwart or recover quickly from such incidents.

"Preparing for wildfire is a shared responsibility and there are actions all property owners can take to improve resiliency," he told LighthouseNOW in a phone interview.

Volunteer and professional firefighters, Parks Canada, and Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources and Renewables officials participated in a pair of FireSmart Canada events, public education opportunities that included the one at Kejimkujik National Park Seaside.

The last major wildfire at Kejimkujik National Park Seaside occurred in 2019 and burned through the northern part of the property's undisturbed natural vegetation and destroyed, on a neighbouring site, a hunting camp. No one was hurt.

Sharpe said nearly $40,000 worth of thinning near their buildings took place last year as part of a wildfire risk reduction process. More thinning, about $100,000 worth is planned this fall for Kejimkujik National Park, located largely in Annapolis County but sprawls into Queens County.

Some steps that can be taken to mitigate risk include stacking firewood away from structures, eliminating coniferous trees near homes, keeping pine needles out of gutters and placing screens over dryer vents to keep embers from entering.

If steps, such as these, save even one home from devastation, the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day event was a success, Sharpe added.

To learn more about FireSmart Canada and access resources, go to https://firesmartcanada.ca.

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