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The Associated Press

Rain brings much-needed relief to firefighters battling Nova Scotia wildfires

Department of Natural Resources and Renewables firefighter Kalen MacMullin of Sydney, Nova Scotia, works on a fire in Shelburne County, N.S. on Thursday. Rain and a rainy forecast for the weekend have fire officials hopeful. (Communications Nova Scotia/The Canadian Press via AP)

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — Officials in Canada's Atlantic Coast province of Nova Scotia said Saturday a wildfire that forced thousands of residents from their homes over the past week is now largely contained because of rain.

David Steeves, a technician of forest resources with Nova Scotia's Department of Natural Resources and Renewables, said the fire in the Halifax area is about 85% contained, sits at 9.5 square kilometer (about 4 square miles) and is unlikely to grow due to a combination of firefighting efforts and long-awaited rain.

The news was also good across the province, where Premier Tim Houston said the total number of active wildfires declined from 10 in the morning to five by mid-afternoon.

"If you step outside you will see something beautiful: rain, and hopefully lots of it," he told an afternoon briefing.

The only fire that remains out of control is one in Shelburne County in the southwestern corner of the province which remains "scary," Houston said.

The blaze that broke out Sunday in the Halifax area raced through a number of subdivisions, consuming about 200 structures — including 151 homes — and forcing the evacuation of more than 16,000 people.

Meanwhile, at the provincial wildfire center in Shubenacadie, north of Halifax, about 20 Canadian Armed Forces soldiers stood in the pouring rain outside a light armored vehicle.

Lt. Col. Michael Blanchette said the initial contingent from Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick had arrived on a "fact-finding mission" to see what military support was needed in the effort to combat the fires.

In Shelburne County, meanwhile, 6,700 people — about half the municipality's population — remained out of their homes as the blaze that forced their evacuation continued to burn out of control.

The Barrington Lake wildfire, which started Saturday, reached 230 square kilometers (93 square miles) — the largest recorded wildfire in the province's history. It has consumed at least 50 homes and cottages.

Dave Rockwood, a spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources, said there was "cautious optimism" that there would be no further growth and that firefighters could use more direct tactics to contain it. Two other fires considered out of control as of Saturday morning were classified as "held" later in the day, he said.

Houston confirmed that schools in Shelburne County would be closed Monday and Tuesday.

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