Smoke was reported across the East End on Saturday morning, when residents awoke to the distinct smell of something burning. According to meteorologists with Environment Canada, the smoke is from a wildfire in the Province of Nova Scotia, where some 23,000 hectares of woodland (around 57,000 acres) have been burning in an out-of-control fire that started last weekend.
As of midweek, it was reported on the CBC that some 50 houses had been lost in the unprecedented fire, which started near the Town of Barrington, in Southwest Nova Scotia, and is being called the Barrington Lake fire. It has moved relentlessly eastward in Shelburne County, out of control, with strong winds pushing it onward. (Updated numbers of structures lost are not yet available.)
It was not the only large wildfire in Nova Scotia in recent days: Thousands of residents were evacuated last week when another blaze went out of control near the capital city, Halifax. The Shelburne fire has been called the largest in Nova Scotia history.
East Hampton Village police said that calls were coming in from Montauk to Bridgehampton, from people concerned about the origin of the fire.
The wind shifted overnight, between Friday and Saturday, becoming southwesterly and bringing the smoke down to Long Island. It was raining in Shelburne as of this reporting.
According to Bess Rattray, an East Hampton Village resident who lived in Shelburne, Nova Scotia, for six years and served as a captain with its fire department, more than 55 volunteer fire departments from around the province have converged in Shelburne County to try to slow the fire’s progress. These all-volunteer fire services have been aided by helicopters and water-carrying airplanes from other provinces and on loan from the United States and Costa Rica.
The chief of the Shelburne Volunteer Fire Department, Darrell Locke, has been a firefighter for 48 years, in Canada and abroad. He told the CBC that saving houses was the teams’ focus.
"We've gotten pushed out of situations for safety reasons that we've had to basically quickly unhook the hose from our trucks and run for our lives," he said. “This is nothing anybody down this way has seen before," he said. "This is nothing Nova Scotia has seen before. . . . It looks horrible in lots of places. Folks have lost everything."