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Shelburne volunteer fire chief says wildfire efforts have 'been a fight'

The chief of the Shelburne Volunteer Fire Department says the blaze near Barrington Lake, which is now classified as “held,” is unlike anything he’s ever seen.

Chief Darrell Locke said the battle to contain the largest recorded wildfire in the province’s history has been grueling for his crew.

“I’ve been in the fire service for 48 years. I have not seen anything like this, Nova Scotia has not seen anything like this,” Locke said in an interview Wednesday morning.

“Admittedly, we’ve had to run a few times for our lives. And that’s hard to say as a firefighter.”

The Shelburne wildfires destroyed 150 structures, including about 60 homes or cottages, and forced the evacuation of about 5,500 people — which is about half of the municipality’s population.

Some evacuees say it's hard to get clear information on the status of their homes inside the evacuation zone.

Evacuee Debbie Nickerson says she tried calling the municipality but could get ahold of anyone.

“All three numbers, it’s not available at this moment, so I imagine it’s going to take either all day or tomorrow,” Nickerson told CTV news.

A warden for the municipality said staff members are doing the “utmost” they can keep up with the calls.

“I would just encourage residents to keep calling,” he said. It’s essential that we get them back in their homes.”

Locke Smith got home Monday, after a week away. He says it’s good to be back.

“Bounced around three or four different places because of not knowing what’s going on, what was taking place,” said Smith.

Locke said that when his team of 35 volunteer firefighters work to save structures or come upon fire-damaged homes, they know the family who lives there.

“We know these people. These are our people, we’re very connected to our community,” he said.

“It’s been an emotional roller coaster, up and down. It’s been a fight, but we’re getting there and every day is better now.”

The fire chief’s team has been working alongside the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables and other crews to attack the nearly 25,000-hectare wildfire that remains out of control.

As of Tuesday evening that wildfire is considered “held,” meaning it isn’t expected to grow or move.

Locke said the hope is that there will be a break in the rain Wednesday afternoon that will allow the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables aircraft the chance to get a clear picture of the fire.

Something that stands out to Locke about the ongoing firefighting effort is the teamwork and collaboration of multiple teams to attack the blaze, he said.

“The ability for all the different organizations and agencies to pull together, work together and do what needs to be done… this is an unprecedented event for Nova Scotia and I think everyone has done a good job,” Locke said. 

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page Top Stories

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