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As fires burn across Canada, firefighters from CT and across New England have mobilized to help


As hundreds of wildfires burn across Canada, volunteers from Connecticut have joined up with other firefighters across the region to aid in containment efforts.

Eight members of the state's Interstate Fire Crew (CIFC) traveled to Nova Scotia last week and have continued to work 10-to-12 hour days to help contain fires that brought abysmal air conditions to large parts of the region this week.

“When they [the CIFC] arrived, [there were] very smoky conditions, 30-to-40 foot trees, burning,” said Christopher Martin, state forester at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. “So, they are actively engaged in getting that perimeter line secured, kind of letting the fire burn itself out [from the] interior to the perimeter, but making sure it didn't spread.”

The firefighters spent Friday digging up burning stumps and roots, as well as excavating areas of the ground. Under extremely dry conditions, wildfires can begin to burn the top layers of soil.

Why CT firefighters are responding to a blaze in Canada

Connecticut is one of seven U.S. states and five Canadian provinces that are part of the Northeastern Forest Fire Protection Compact (NFFPC). Its goal is to allow member states and provinces to assist each other in the event of a wildfire that is too much for one area to handle alone.

Martin said the NFFPC is a team effort, with all parties involved being in constant communication.

“When a ‘neighbor,’ a member of the Compact, gets in trouble, it's basically systems are all set and ready to go at a moment's notice," Martin said. "That's the way we have to roll."

But responding to a wildfire in another county is a major time commitment.

According to Martin, out of the 121 volunteers that the Connecticut Interstate Fire Crew keeps on call for emergencies, only eight were able to make the more than two week-long trip.

“We sent eight folks to Bangor, Maine, last Friday night. They teamed up with similar folks from Maine, New Hampshire and New York state for a total of a 17 [person] crew,” Martin said. “They went over to Nova Scotia on Saturday. They're still there.”

Why Canada’s wildfires are so severe right now

Canada’s wildfire season stretches from May to October, but extreme drought and dry heat have brought many sprawling fires across the nation earlier than usual. According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, there are currently more than 400 active wildfires burning across the entire country.

Fires across Quebec have been the source of hazy air throughout New England, and projectionsshow that Canada may continue to see high fire risk as its wildfire season progresses.

Nova Scotia has been particularly hard hit by the wildfires, but officials said they have seen some positive signs since Thursday.

The Connecticut firefighters in Nova Scotia are battling a blaze that is currently labeled as “being held” rather than “out of control,” Martin said. Being held means that the fire is not moving and spreading, but is still not under control.

Despite long hours for the crew, Martin said, the firefighters are all committed to helping out.

“These folks love what they're doing. They trained for this. They're capable, they're well qualified. And I have the highest admiration for them,” Martin said.

The volunteer crew from Connecticut could return to the U.S. within a few days, depending on the status of the fire. Possible rain and cooler temperatures in the coming days may ease the ongoing blaze.

Kelsey Goldbach is a Digital Media Intern with Connecticut Public.

She is a fourth year student pursuing an undergraduate degree in Journalism at the University of Southern California. Recently, Kelsey was a part of the Dow Jones News Fund Digital Intern Class of 2023. She is a Connecticut native and spends her summers in Waterbury.

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