Porters Lake residents back in their homes after being forced out by weekend forest fire

Click to play video: 'No lives or homes lost in sweeping Porters Lake fire' No lives or homes lost in sweeping Porters Lake fire
WATCH: This weekend’s massive fire in Porters Lake displaced 1,000 people from their homes. Luckily, no lives or homes were lost. Alexa MacLean has more – May 25, 2020

More than 1,000 residents who were evacuated this weekend as a result of a large brush fire in Porters Lake, N.S., are back in their homes.

When Linda Swansburg saw smoke billowing out from behind the trees in her neighbour’s yard, she immediately had flashbacks to the 2008 Porters Lake forest fire that tore through over 4,000 acres of land and ended up destroying two homes in the Candy Mountain Road area of Mineville, N.S.

“It was all too real from last time we got evacuated and it was close, it seemed a little closer this time but luckily the wind took it and nobody was hurt and nobody lost any properties,” Swansburg said.

This photo was taken by Luis Acosta. The smoke was rising up from the forest behind his house on West Porters Lake Road. Luis Acosta/Submitted

At approximately 12:30 p.m., on Saturday, Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency (HRFE) received a 911 call reporting a potential forest fire.

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Multiple stations responded to a residential but densely forested area off of West Porters Lake road.

Upon arrival, it became immediately evident to firefighters that Nova Scotia’s department of lands and forestry would have to assist.

READ MORE: Evacuation order lifted for Porters Lake residents after crews battle wildfire

The winds were causing the flames to move at a speed that crews couldn’t contain by ground alone.

“It escalated relatively quickly. We had high fire weather indexes for that day and relatively good winds,” said Dave Seeves, a forest resource technician with the lands and forestry department.

“So, the initial response was quick but then some safety concerns came into it as we had a wind shift.”

A number of emergency services were called in, including RCMP, Ground Search and Rescue Teams and three helicopters from Nova Scotia’s land and forestry.

Steeves said the main concern for crews was that the flames were quickly moving from the ground, up into the tall parts of trees resulting in what he called a “crown fire.”

“A crown fire is basically when the fire moves from the ground level up into the top levels of the trees. When it gets to that point it’s burning at such a high-intensity rate that it’s not safe for personnel on the ground. So, that’s when our air assets like our helicopters come into play,” Steeves said.

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Burnt trees pepper the forest throughout West Porters Lake. Three Lands and Forestry helicopters were called in to help fight the flames. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

A provincial fire burn was in effect for Nova Scotia throughout the weekend.

Wildfire risk season runs until October mid-October and Steeves said it’s imperative that people check the provincial burn site before they light any types of fires.

“It’s not something that we put in place lightly and we don’t do it to ruin people’s weekends, or family time. There’s a lot of science that go into that and those numbers and restrictions are there for a reason and that’s to keep people safe,” Steeves said.

Click to play video: 'Fire services focusing on containing 50-hectare Porters Lake bush fire rather than mapping it' Fire services focusing on containing 50-hectare Porters Lake bush fire rather than mapping it
Fire services focusing on containing 50-hectare Porters Lake bush fire rather than mapping it – May 24, 2020

According to statistics from HRFE, between 6:00 p.m. AT, on Friday and midnight on Sunday fire crews responded to 130 calls.

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Halifax fire says 92 of those were for outdoor fires.

Steeves said the fire in West Porters Lake covered approximately 50 hectares of land.

Crews were still on-site Monday, searching for ‘hot spots’ and ensuring there weren’t any areas that could result in more flareups.

The cause of the blaze remains under investigation by the department of lands and forestry.

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