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East Coast wildfires get an early start, just as temperatures soar

Wednesday, May 27th 2020, 12:27 pm - The past few days have seen several wildfires across the Maritimes, and the usual fire weather factors aren't solely to blame.

The Maritimes have definitely seen this year's wildfire season get off to a roaring start, with crews battling blazes in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick over the past week.

Over the weekend, a fire near Porter's Lake, N.S., forced around 1,000 people from their homes. Earlier this week, a brush fire at a nature park near Moncton, N.B. forced more evacuations there.

NSFIREPic Smoke from the brush fire in West Porters Lake on Saturday afternoon. Photo: Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forestry.

Back in Nova Scotia, crews so far this week have had to fight several fires in Antigonish, Yarmouth and Kings Counties and in Cape Breton, with the largest fire at Harve Boucher near Antigonish about 148 hectares in size late Tuesday. In New Brunswick, a fire burning near Blackville in the Miramichi area had burned 800 hectares by Wednesday.

Wednesday won't offer much help for firefighters, with wildfire risk high through most of New Brunswick and parts of Nova Scotia.

ATLFire (1)

READ MORE: Most of Canada sees 'above average' summer wildfire risk, worst in the West

Why the cluster of fires now? Weather Network meteorologist says part, though not all, of the reason has been the weather conditions the Maritimes have experienced in May so far.

When it comes to precipitation, things have been a bit uneven: Where Halifax has had a near-normal season for precipitation so far, Moncton came in below average, as did Saint John, and Prince Edward Island has been somewhat dry as well. In fact, Moncton didn't see so much as a shower from May 17-25.

It doesn't help that the region is experiencing relatively dry conditions this week, with temperatures rising well into the 20s, and even crossing the 30-degree mark for parts of the north.

fire1 (1)

Other fire weather factors include wind speed and direction, which can fan the flames, as well as relative humidity, but aside from the four factors above, Murphy adds a fifth: Human behaviour, especially now that the weather is nice enough for people to spend more time outside.

New Brunswick presently has a province-wide burn ban, and Nova Scotia forbids open fires in the woods or within 305 metres of the woods at least until June 1st.

"Don't start a fire that's up to you to prevent," Murphy says.

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