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Forest fires that burned hundreds of hectares in 2016 were likely arson, official says

The fires, which were 20 kilometres apart in Annapolis and Queens counties, burned 430 hectares last August.
A water bomber drops its load at the Seven Mile Lake fire in Annapolis County last year. (Communications Nova Scotia)

Three large forest fires that burned hundreds of hectares of woodland in southwestern Nova Scotia last summer were most likely deliberately set, the Department of Natural Resources says.

“I believe that they were intentionally lit as arson fires,” says Jim Rudderham, the department's supervisor of fire management.

“But, we can't conclusively call them arson, we wouldn't be able to stand up in court and say they were intentionally set as arson fires.”

He said it's possible the fires were started accidentally by someone flicking a cigarette, or using a propane stove and it setting something ablaze, but he doesn't think that's the case.

“We can't conclusively prove it because there was so much activity to put those fires out that that evidence would be smashed and ruined,” he said, but added that nothing else made sense as a cause other than deliberate acts.

The largest fire, at Seven Mile Lake in Annapolis County, burned 400 hectares, while a fire at Maitland Bridge, Annapolis County, burned 21 hectares and one at Ten Mile Lake in Queens County burned 10 hectares. The fires burned over 12 days, starting on Aug. 3.

The three fires were only about 20 kilometres apart.

Rudderham said while it has been a year since the fires, the department would still like anyone who has information to contact the department, RCMP or Crime Stoppers.

The cost of fighting the fires was more than $3.5 million.

The majority of that cost, about 58 per cent, was for water bombers that were brought in from Quebec, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The cost was on top of the $520,000 that was spent fighting fires earlier in the year. The department's budget for 2016 had been set at $686,000.






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