“Safety is our top priority,” unless you’re a logging company, then the profit motive is.
There are currently three main wildfires burning in Nova Scotia, and according to the most recent government release, all are considered “out of control.” One is in the Pubnico area near Yarmouth where 59 hectares are burning. Another very large fire is burning near Barrington Lake near Shelburne and the latest is that in just one day it nearly doubled in size and is now nearly 20,000 hectares with 2,000 people evacuated so far. The other major fire covers roughly 788 hectares in the suburbs of Hammonds Plains, Upper Tantallon and Pockwock, about 25 km from Halifax. Fires in this area have reportedly damaged or destroyed more than 200 homes and more than 16,000 have been evacuated.
On May 28, 2023 around 5pm the billowing smoke from the Upper Tantallon fire was visible from the Fox Point wharf on St. Margaret’s Bay – more than 25 km away. Photo: Linda Pannozzo.
While the causes of these fires are currently under investigation, there is video evidence indicating that ground zero for the Upper Tantallon fire was a bonfire in a yard on Juneberry Lane in the Westwood Hills subdivision. Despite the incredibly dry and hot weather there was, surprisingly, no fire ban issued at the time. The first firetruck to arrive on the scene was faced with fires already raging in the forest adjacent to the yard.
Screen grab from video posted on Twitter by Halifax News and Lifestyle. You can access the video submitted by Ben Clattenburg from this Saltwire article.
We know -- from past experience in Nova Scotia that forest fires can also be caused by metal machine tracks sparking on rocky terrain. In June of 2020, a fire at McGee Lake and another near Springfield began this way. At the time the government wouldn’t admit this was the cause but both areas indicated logging activity had been occurring.
It seems this denialism is alive and well.
Late in the day yesterday, the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables issued more restrictions which limit the entry of individuals into the forest, but strangely the new rules don’t seem to apply much to the forestry sector.
Tory Rushton, Minister of Natural Resources and Renewables, announced that travel and activities in the woods are restricted as of 4 p.m. today, May 30.
"Safety is our top priority," said Minister Rushton. "Conditions are extremely dry across the province, so we're putting these restrictions in place to reduce the risk of additional fires."
From the release:
"Hiking, camping, fishing and the use of vehicles in the woods are not permitted. People can still access beaches and provincial and municipal parks, but trail systems are off limits. Camping is allowed only in campgrounds.
The restrictions apply to Crown and private land. Private landowners are free to use their own properties but cannot host others to use wooded areas of their properties.
Forestry, mining and any commercial activity on Crown land, are also restricted. People who conduct commercial activity on Crown land can apply for a permit at their local Department of Natural Resources and Renewables office.
Forestry companies working on Crown land can only work between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. All companies and private landowners are encouraged to take this approach."
Department of Natural Resources and Renewables staff member Mark Shaw works to put out fires in the Tantallon area. Source: DNRR
I contacted the government for some clarification on what the announcement actually means for the forestry sector and Marla MacInnis, the manager of media relations explained, “forestry companies working on Crown land can only work between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. The timing is considered a mandatory requirement on Crown land. All companies and private landowners are encouraged to take the same approach. Private landowners are free to use their own properties but cannot host others to use wooded areas of their properties.”
So, I’m not allowed to walk on a municipal trail with my dog, but forest companies can still log the shit out the forests.
There may be a lot of smoke but the view of who’s running this show couldn’t be any clearer.
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