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'Many, many lives turned upside down' by wildfires: N.S. premier

Nova Scotia’s premier says the “historic” wildfires in the province have caused a “breath-taking amount of damage.”

“Weather has favoured the fires all week, not the firefighters. We’re hopeful this will soon change,” Premier Tim Houston said during a news conference Friday.

Province-wide there are 14 active wildfires, four of which are out of control, and the fires cover about 23,000 hectares of land as of Friday afternoon.

In Shelburne, more than 5,000 residents have been evacuated — representing half of the community’s population. During peak evacuations in the Halifax area, more than 16,000 were forced to leave their homes.

“This is historic,” Scott Tingley, manager of forest protection with the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables, said, adding that the fire in Shelburne County is the largest recorded wildfire in the province’s history.

“Through all this despair, zero deaths, zero missing persons, zero serious injuries. This says a lot about the professionalism of our first responders leading the response,” the premier said.

“No lives lost, but an absolutely breath-taking amount of damage and many, many lives turned upside down.”

About 150 homes have been destroyed by fires in the Halifax Regional Municipality and officials in Shelburne estimate about 50 homes have been destroyed, though a fulsome assessment of damage in the area has not been completed.

The premier thanked New Brunswick, P.E.I., Newfoundland and Labrador and Ontario Friday for providing equipment and or firefighters to work alongside Nova Scotia’s many firefighting crews.

“It means so much. The national system of provinces helping provinces is working,” Houston said.

As well, the premier says more than 140 volunteer firefighters within Nova Scotia have signed up to join the frontlines and the province is working on the process of “mobilizing” this group to join the firefighting efforts in the coming days.

More international help is also on the way, with 60 firefighters from Costa Rica and 35 firefighters from New England set to arrive shortly, Houston said.

The premier said he’s also pleased to see the federal government is “starting to move” on providing support to the province.

The premier shared Wednesday an extensive list of requests for support to the federal government, that include military firefighting crew, a variety of equipment, helicopters to drop water, and 50 per cent cost-sharing for modular housing units for those who have lost their homes to the fire.

“We’ve lost a lot of homes, and we’re already in a housing crisis,” Houston said. “We know the issue is significant, we’ll work with our municipal partners and get through this.”

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page

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