A Cape Breton fire chief is speaking out about the carelessness of grassfires after a nest of duck eggs was destroyed by a fire he says was deliberately set.

John Chant, chief of the Glace Bay Volunteer Fire Department, says crews responded to a fire on Wilson Road in Reserve Mines, N.S.

After the fire was extinguished he walked around the area and spotted a devastating scene -- about a dozen baby duck eggs, which had been scorched by the flames, and a mother duck desperately trying to save them.

“A duck appeared and started moving the eggs individually, about 12 inches from the nest. She was just examining each egg with so much care, looking for any signs of life in that egg,” says Chant.

“It just broke my heart.”

Chant says it was the most emotional scene he’s ever witnessed in his 24 years with the Glace Bay Volunteer Fire Department.

“It’s a long time since a tear came down my cheek at a fire scene, and yesterday was one of those times I think I’ll remember for the rest of my career,” he says.

Jeff McNeil, the president of the Port Morien Wildlife Association, says he’s worried about the amount of duress the mother duck endured.

“Just the stress alone of losing their young would be enough to maybe not have them nest next year,” he says. “It actually takes lives, potential lives that could have hatched into a healthy population.”

Chant posted about the incident on the fire department’s Facebook page on Monday. Thousands of people have shared and commented on the post, which includes pictures of the scorched eggs and mother duck.

“A lot of people care and a lot of people, I see their frustration in the comments,” says Chant. “And I don’t blame them.”

He hopes the pictures and subsequent public outcry will sound the alarm about the potential danger of grassfires, and preventing others from starting them.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Kyle Moore