Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A forest fire that occurred April 24 near Molega Lake is still under investigation.
The fire that began in the early afternoon of that day burned about 3.24 hectares of mostly woodland at the Uhlman Point area on the north side of Molega Lake, which falls within the boundaries of the North Queens Fire Department.
However, their proximity to the area meant that firefighters with the Greenfield and District Fire Department were first on the scene.
Moyal Conrad, chief of that department, described the blaze as "probably one of the worst ones we've had in quite awhile, because it was so close to some structures."
Jonathan Roach, deputy chief for the North Queens department, reported that when his firefighters arrived, "we found a significant size fire that was burning the duff layer of the forest floor." Roach noted the winds were "quite heavy at the time, and we had to call in significant resources for people power."
The fire was located near summer cottages, but thanks to the efforts of the responding firefighters no homes were damaged. However, three outbuildings suffered "light exterior damage," and one storage shed burned down.
Residents in the area self-evacuated and no injuries occurred.
Roach said the firefighters did well to keep the blaze at bay.
"It was a tough fire. The top of the ground is tinder dry and the flames were pretty intense," he said.
As well as firefighters from Greenfield and North Queens, there were firefighters from Liverpool, Tri-District, Hemford, New Germany and Port Medway on the scene, and a crew from Annapolis Royal were on standby at the North Queens fire hall. Lunenburg and Sable River fire crews were also on standby.
Staff with the Department of Lands and Forestry attended as well.
Firefighters worked the area from about 2:30 p.m. to 8:45 p.m., according to Roach, and several members of the North Queens and Greenfield departments as well as the Department of Lands and Forestry returned the following day to check for hotspots.
Paul Schnurr, Wildfire Training Officer with the Department of Lands and Forestry, said they have a mandate to attend all forest fires in the province with some exemptions being fires located on federal land.
A helicopter was also dispatched, "because there were structures that were in the area, and given the day and the potential for fire growth," said Schnurr. "But the fire was stopped at a roadway, and because of the peninsula we were able to keep it from extending very far into the woods, so the helicopter was cancelled."
"Lucky that the fire departments got there quickly," said Conrad. "We probably saved four cottages and some other outbuildings."
Conrad reported there were about 18 firefighters on the scene who fought the head of the fire, and their main priority was to protect the cottages nearby.
Dwayne Primeau, president of the Greater Molega Lake Lot Owners Association (GMLLOA), posted a message of appreciation on the GMLLOA website.
"On behalf of all members, we express a heartfelt thank you to the firefighters and fire departments who responded swiftly and bravely to fight this fire," he said, noting that the fire travelled across eight properties.
The non-profit association formed in 1977 and currently consists of 63 permanent residents, 413 seasonal owners and about 1,136 properties in the Ponhook, Molega, Beaverdam, Annis, Hidden, Beavertail and Black Rattle lakes.
Schnurr emphasized the importance of being fire safe now.
"A lot of people believe the woods are very wet. They're standing on the ground and soil may be very wet itself. But what's available to burn right now are things like grasses, leaves and weeds, which just take a few hours to dry out and that ignites very easily," he said.
"It often surprises people how fast a fire will travel, so you need to be very careful, follow the restrictions that are posted on the burn safe line and remember you're responsible for your fire at the end of the day."