As a result of our recent weeks of dry weather, hot sun and no rain, forests in our province became tinder dry and conditions were perfect for forest fires. Unfortunately, those fires did erupt and over the past few weeks, volunteers, local fire department members, trained firefighters with Natural Resources and support from other provinces have worked long and hard to contain several fires in our province. Since many of us live in rural Nova Scotia, we know the risk of forest fires as we are completely surrounded by trees. We value and appreciate our forests and we also know how quickly they can be destroyed by fires.
I commend our Minister of Natural Resources, Lloyd Hines for his quick action during this extremely dry season. Back on June 27th, the Minister restricted campfires in Nova Scotia’s camping parks. This was in addition to the ban on campfires outside of provincial parks, but the risk became too high to allow any campfires in any part of our province. The imposing of restrictions was necessary to ensure the protection of forests, public and private properties, large and small woodlots, homes, businesses and lives. This precaution was absolutely critical. These restrictions are a small price to pay as we prepared to avoid the risk of wild fires.
In addition to these restrictions, on August 8th, Minister Hines announced new measures to help prevent additional fires. These restrictions were placed on all travel and other activities within our woodlands and this included hiking, camping, fishing, and the use of off highway vehicles. Although these restrictions may have posed an inconvenience for Nova Scotians and our visitors, the top priority for the Department and our Government had to be one of safety.
Conditions in some regions of our province were the driest in 15 years, we could not afford to take a chance. These restrictions also applied to forestry and other commercial activities on Crown Land. The forest industry recognized that the situation in our province required the cooperation of everyone who uses our forests.
Wild fires were reported in Maitland Bridge, Annapolis County, Greenfield, Queens County, 7 Mile Lake, Annapolis County, 10 Mile Lake, Queens County, Perch Lake, Pictou County and a small fire in Collingwood, Cumberland County. To date all fires have been contained. As we see in our local fire departments, mutual aid is critical and effective. On a larger scale, resources including fire bombers and firefighters from Quebec, New Brunswick and Newfoundland came on site to share their expertise and to assist.
As the MLA for Colchester North, a resident of rural Nova Scotia and a small woodlot owner, I sincerely thank all crews and volunteers who worked around the clock to fight fires and to support the firefighters. One example of ordinary people doing extraordinary things is the 12 year old girl from Bridgewater who received $100 for her birthday. She in turn wanted to purchase $100 of bottled water and to send it to firefighters on the front line. However, before she sent it she took the time to mark on the bottle cap a big THANK YOU. This story brought tears to the eyes of some of the firefighters and prompted Premier Stephen McNeil, who was visiting the front line and who heard this story, to give this young girl a personal call to thank her for her kindness.
Many employers gave their firefighters time off from work and many local restaurants closed their doors and devoted all of their time to prepare food for the firefighters. These acts of kindness and volunteerism are the things that make our province and our people so special. We all share in thanking you and I know folks in Colchester North would step up to the plate in similar circumstances.
Karen Casey, MLA