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N.S. fire chief doesn’t expect forest to fully recover from 2023 fires in his lifetime

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Darrell Locke has seen his fair share of fires as the chief of the Shelburne Volunteer Fire Department, but nothing quite compared to the size, scope and devastation of the 2023 wildfires in Nova Scotia.

“It was what we called a campaign fire,” Locke told CTV News Atlantic’s Todd Battis during an interview on Wednesday. “None of us in Nova Scotia had seen something like that before. We experienced what (eastern Alberta) sees on a regular basis.”

Locke reflected on the fires that sparked in Barrington Lake on May 26, 2023, and burned 250-square kilometres of forest before it was fully put down two months later. The fire, the largest in the province’s history, displaced 6,000 people and destroyed 60 homes and cottages.

Locke noted the anniversary of the fire was a major topic of conversation in Shelburne this week.

“It’s the talk of the town,” he said. “When I was at the post office I ran into a couple who said today is bittersweet because today is the day their cottage was consumed by the fire.

“Fortunately we did have very nice rain yesterday which took the edge off a bit. Leading up to that rain folks were very concerned. As a fire service we are on high alert because we don’t want to do that again.”

Locke said roughly 50 per cent of the lost structures have been rebuilt, but much of Highway 103 is still surrounded by the black of burnt trees.

“I will never see in my lifetime the forest recover to what it was,” he said. “This burnt material has fallen over through the winter. The trees are now fallen down which is a whole other fire situation.”

Locke is hopeful people will learn from the incident, but he noted crews had to put out a fire last Saturday as someone left it without properly extinguishing it.

“We need to somehow get that education out there,” he said. “People need to pay attention to what they’re doing.”

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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