News release

Wildfire Report Highlights Strengths, Areas for Improvement

Natural Resources and Renewables

The government is taking action to address recommendations in a new report on the firefighting response to the historic Barrington Lake and Upper Tantallon / Hammonds Plains wildfires last year.

“I couldn’t be prouder of everyone who worked and volunteered non-stop to bring those wildfires under control and residents back to safety. Their expertise and strong performance are clearly noted in the after-action report,” said Tory Rushton, Minister of Natural Resources and Renewables. “We’ll use the report’s recommendations to build on these strengths and continue adapting our responses to this ever-increasing risk. The new Department of Emergency Management will be integral in our work going forward.”

The 2023 Nova Scotia Wildfire After-Action Report found the Department’s response was successfully co-ordinated and conducted, with the collaborative approach to emergency management working well. It says the level of dedication by Department staff, first responders, volunteers and other agencies was outstanding and that fire departments across the province were exceptionally willing to help.

The Department is committed to continuous improvement and accepts all recommendations, including:

  • offer wildfire training and exercises more broadly across the province
  • train more Department staff in incident command management and other emergency-related functions
  • review and strengthen the Department’s response plans with clearer protocols, processes, roles and responsibilities
  • strengthen protocols related to the use of air support for wildfire response
  • improve mental and physical health supports for front-line workers.

The Department has already begun implementing some of the recommendations. For example, it started a new program with the Fire Service Association of Nova Scotia last year to offer training in wildland firefighting for municipal and volunteer firefighters. That means 60 more firefighters are ready to serve this year, if needed.

The Department is also taking other actions to prepare for more severe wildfire seasons, including upgrading equipment such as hoses, pumps, power saws and safety equipment, replacing the fleet of four helicopter water bombers, and looking at reasonable options for fixed-wing water bomber support.

After-action reports are routinely completed after a wildfire. Given the scope of the fires last spring, the Department contracted consultants Calian Group Ltd. to produce an independent report.

Quick Facts:

  • the Barrington Lake, Shelburne County, wildfire was the largest in recorded history in Nova Scotia, burning 23,379 hectares, while the Upper Tantallon / Hammonds Plains wildfire burned 969 hectares; combined, they destroyed more than 200 homes
  • there were 220 wildfires in the province in 2023, burning about 25,000 hectares
  • the consultants interviewed and surveyed representatives from government departments, municipalities, fire departments and other partners to examine the response to the wildfires
  • the Department has about 300 wildland firefighters throughout the province and hundreds more volunteer and municipal firefighters
  • the Nova Scotia Guard – a new volunteer corps announced March 28 – will help communities respond to and recover from crises and disasters, including wildfires

Additional Resources:

2023 Nova Scotia Wildfire After-Action Report:

Burn ban map:

Forest protection information:

FireSmart Nova Scotia:

News release – Nova Scotia Guard, New Department Will Improve Emergency Readiness:

This news release was updated on May 1, 2024 to specify Upper Tantallon / Hammonds Plains