AMHERST – Don’t let Sunday’s rain fool you, it’s still tinder dry out there.
Both Cumberland County’s EMO coordinator and Amherst’s fire chief are urging people to be extra careful near the woods this summer because it wouldn’t take much to spark a major fire.
“There were times last summer I could stand in the middle of the River Philip and the Shinimicas River without getting my feet wet. That’s how dry it was. It could be that dry again this summer,” Mike Johnson of Cumberland EMO said. “It’s a lot drier than we’ve seen in some time and it sets up a situation where we could be susceptible to forest fires.”
Johnson said rainfall levels across Cumberland County continue to be below average and because there wasn't as much rain or snow during the winter an already dry water table could get worse in the coming months. Johnson said that’s bad news for farmers, those who love to sit around a campfire, those who rely on well water and those who fight fires.
“It may look normal, but you can go down just a few feet and see how dry it really is,” fire chief Greg Jones said. “Usually you’ll find water or see how wet the ground is, but right now it’s so dry.”
Johnson said the forest floor is littered with potential fuel for a wildfire. Just two weeks ago when the ground appeared wet and muddy, it’s now dry and hard as concrete, he added.
“It’s tinder dry,” he said. “From every patch of field or grass there’s an adjoining
The EMO coordinator said the last two summers featured near drought-like conditions across the county. The situation was so dire that there was a forest fire in the Fenwick area in June 2016 and the woods were closed at times in both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
Last year, Johnson said, there was regular rainfall in areas north and south of Cumberland County. That wasn’t the case here, where Johnson estimates there were a 200-mm shortfall in the amount of rain that fell over the county.
“It’s almost like there’s a dome over Cumberland County that’s preventing us from getting the rain we need,” Johnson said. “Two years ago, it was around the first of June that it seemed as though someone turned off the faucet. Last year, it was the first of July. For some reason, the rain just stopped. If we don’t get regular rainfall this summer we’re going to see a lot of the similar issues we saw last summer and two years ago, things like wells going dry and people having to dig new wells.
Jones wants to raise awareness about how dry it is and educate people about how they can still enjoy the outdoors while at the same time being aware of the fire risk. He said fire departments always prepare for the worst-case scenario, but the public also has a role to play.
Between March 15 and Oct. 15 there is no outdoor burning between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., unless by permit. After 2 p.m., burning is permitted according to the provincial index that’s available at https://novascotia.ca/burnsafe/.
Outdoor fires are never permitted in Amherst, except for preparing food.