Home / Blog / N.S. makes ‘significant’ ask of federal government over devastating wildfire

N.S. makes ‘significant’ ask of federal government over devastating wildfire

Jan 10, 2024Jan 10, 2024

"We will take all the support we can get."

That's how Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston laid out the wildfire situation in the province, as multiple out-of-control fires continue to burn.

The Shelburne County fire now covers 17,186 hectares, and has forced the evacuation of 5,000 people.

The Tantallon and Hammonds Plains wildfire in the Halifax area has grown to 837 hectares and has so far destroyed some 200 structures. More than 16,400 people have been evacuated in that wildfire.

A second wildfire in Hammonds Plains is 80 per cent contained, however the municipality has warned residents to be prepared to evacuate with 30 minutes notice if the situation changes.

An out-of-control wildfire is also burning in Yarmouth County, where firefighters and three helicopters are on scene.

On Wednesday, Houston said he has sent the prime minister a request for a "comprehensive" support package.

The long list of requests include military firefighters, ignition specialists, firefighting equipment and supplies — including 12 4×4 trucks and four helicopters.

In terms of longer-term needs, Houston said he has also asked for financial support for modular housing for those who have lost their homes. As well, the province is looking for skilled trades personnel from the military and exemptions for temporary foreign workers to help re-build.

"We’ve asked for a temporary benefit that would provide wage replacement to support those unable to work right now," he added.

"The list of asks is significant, we know that the federal government has our asks. They know what we need. They’ve seen the pictures, they’ve seen the video, they’ve had the discussions with people working for the province at the elected level and other levels as well."

Houston said it has been made clear to the federal government how dire the situation is, and encouraged Ottawa to be proactive in offering up support.

"It's time to pitch in with whatever you have," he said.

"If you have more resources that we may not be aware of or that you can think of could help in anyway, we just ask please send them to Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia needs the help right now. We will gladly accept it and deploy it."

Speaking to reporters in Ottawa earlier in the day, Central Nova MP Sean Fraser said the federal government was "willing to pull out all the stops" to help Nova Scotians.

"Let me just say to people back home, we are working really, really hard to extend whatever supports we can and to provide whatever assistance may be requested," Fraser said.

"This is an all hands on deck moment."

He said the images of destruction coming from Nova Scotia were "like they’re out of a horror film."

"We have between 16 and 18,000 people displaced in my province right now. Hundreds of people are watching their homes burn and are very worried about the well-being of their families and are at risk of losing absolutely everything," he said.

"I just want people to know that we are willing to pull out all the stops to make sure that people are safe and have the support they need."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau echoed the promise to help — calling the current fires in Nova Scotia, as well as in New Brunswick and other provinces, "heartbreaking."

"We’ve actually asked the public service to give technical updates to all party leaders so that they can know exactly what's going on, what our response is, and contribute more ideas and things that we can do on top of it," Trudeau said.

"We’re continuing to look at ways for all Canadians to be able to support people who are suffering through these devastating forest fires."

The 20-member firefighting crew from Nova Scotia's Department of Natural Resources and Renewables (DNRR) that was helping with wildfires in Northwest Territories is returning home late Wednesday night, and will start work Thursday.

"They will be deployed where they are needed," the province said in a news release.

Meanwhile, aid from elsewhere in Canada and the northeastern American states are either on the ground or on the way.

So far, three water bombers from Newfoundland and Labrador are in the province, alongside eight water bombers from New Brunswick that are being used in the Shelburne and Barrington area.

Personnel from Prince Edward Island have arrived, and Ontario has sent equipment.

Seventeen firefighters from the states of New York and New Hampshire will start work this Saturday.

"Unprecedented resources are being used because these fires are unprecedented," said Houston.

"The effort that's going into the response is significant."