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Fifth day of fighting major wildfires in Nova Scotia could prove pivotal

fire burning in Shelburne County, N.S. is shown

HALIFAX — The fight against wildfires that have forced at least 21,000 people from their homes in Nova Scotia is expected to reach a pivotal point today.

Fire officials are worried about a resurgence in two major fires because of a phenomenon known as “crossover.”

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Wildfires can become extreme events when the temperature rises above 30 C, humidity dips below 30 per cent and wind speeds top 30 kilometres per hour — and that’s exactly what is expected to happen today.

The two major fires that remain out of control — one in suburban Halifax, the other in the southwestern corner of the province — have already destroyed at least 200 homes and cottages.

On the ground, firefighters are dealing with parched conditions.

Much of the province experienced a very mild winter with very little snowfall, and there hasn’t been any significant rainfall in the past 12 days.

As well, April was the driest month on record at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport.

Meanwhile, Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston has written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ask for help.

In a letter released Wednesday, Houston said the province is looking for more water bombers and helicopters, and he submitted formal requests for firefighting foam, 5,000 hoses, four-wheel-drive trucks and assistance in establishing a base camp for 250 firefighters.

Houston also wants advance access to the federal Disaster Financial Assistance Program, which typically does not kick in until the province has spent more than $3 million on disaster relief.

Environment Canada has issued warnings about poor air quality in Shelburne County, where a wildfire that started near Barrington Lake has become the largest forest fire in the province’s history, now covering more than 170 square kilometres.

Another air quality statement was issued for Upper Tantallon and Hammonds Plains, just outside Halifax, as the out-of-control wildfire there was estimated at just over eight square kilometres in size.

Cooler temperatures and steady rain aren’t expected until late Friday.

Though the Atlantic region is better known for its soggy weather in the spring, Nova Scotia has recorded 201 wildfires this season, 28 of them in the past week alone. Those fires have so far burned 190 square kilometres of land.