Module 16: Wildfire and Your Woodland

Lesson 6 - If a Fire Gets Out of Control

If a Fire Gets Out of Control

Once a fie grows to a size that is not controllable by shovels and back tanks, assistance from a fie department is absolutely necessary. You should waste no time in calling in the location of a fie and be prepared to give straightforward, easy-to-follow directions.

If a fie department can get tanker trucks close enough to the fie, they will run hose directly from the trucks. If a fie is in a location impassable to heavy trucks, portable pumps may be used to pump water directly from watercourses or ponds. This procedure can be a huge tactical effort on the part of firefighters, and several hundred metres of hose can often be required to access a remote woodland fire.




A fire department will call for additional support if a fire is in a woodland area. This will include NSDNR personnel and equipment, more pumps and hoses, and ultimately a helicopter equipped with a bucket for dropping water. Air dropping water and retardant may be the only way of controlling a fire that has climbed into the crowns of softwood trees.

While large fires are thankfully rare in Nova Scotia, there have been some huge wildfies in the past that have required an extraordinary quantity of resources to control them. One example is the Trafalgar Fire of 1976, which burned 130 km2, requiring the use of hundreds of people and bulldozers to create firebreaks on the landscape. In June 2008, the Porter’s Lake Fire—started by a campfire—burned 1,900 hectares of woodland, destroyed two homes, and necessitated the evacuation of 5,000 people from their homes. Large amounts of brush and woody debris created by Hurricane Juan in 2003 provided abundant fuel for this fie. Once fires reach the sizes in these two examples, suppression efforts and associated costs can be astronomical.

It’s important to have a checklist handy should even a small fie get out of control. It is not easy to remain clearheaded when a potential wildfire is developing on your woodland. The checklist should be kept in an easy-to-reach location, such as a firs aid kit. To make it even easier to find, th checklist should be printed on brightly coloured laminated or waterproof paper.

What actions should be on your checklist?





Because of effective modern fire fighting equipment and methods, large fires in Nova Scotia are rare. The potential for one, however, is present each fie season. Ironically, good prevention practices have resulted in an unprecedented buildup of fuels in Nova Scotia’s forests. A large, dangerous wildfire may be only a spark away! This makes it even more important for woodland owners to be extremely cautious during fie season, and increasing the odds that any wildfire—small or large—is prevented. Remember: Control fuels on your woodland and have the necessary tools available should you need them quickly.