Homes ‘engulfed in flames’ from N.S. wildfire, thousands evacuated in Halifax suburbs

Click to play video: 'Tantallon, N.S. residents watch as flames, smoke move closer to homes as wildfire spreads'
Tantallon, N.S. residents watch as flames, smoke move closer to homes as wildfire spreads
WATCH: Tantallon, N.S. residents watch as flames, smoke move closer – May 29, 2023

A number of homes went up in flames on Sunday as a Nova Scotia wildfire was rapidly moving through a section of the Halifax suburb of Tantallon and into neighboring Hammonds Plains.

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston posted on social media Sunday night that water bombers had arrived from New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador after 8 p.m. to help take on the out-of-control wildfire.

“We are in contact with our municipal and federal partners to ensure every resource is exhausted,” Houston said in a statement.

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Three separate emergency alerts were issued by the province about the ongoing situation by mid-evening, resulting in thousands being evacuated.

At 5:15 p.m. Sunday, the first emergency alert was issued about an evacuation order for the Westwood Hills subdivision of Tantallon due to “ongoing multiple structure and forest fires.”

Click to play video: 'Residents being told to evacuate as wildfire spreads in Tantallon, N.S., houses engulfed in flames'
Residents being told to evacuate as wildfire spreads in Tantallon, N.S., houses engulfed in flames

In a second emergency alert issued at 6:10 p.m., it said the fire had spread into the neighbouring Hammonds Plains, and an evacuation order was issued for Yankeetown (Highland Park) subdivision.

The third emergency alert came at about 7:40 p.m.. It said the evacuation order was being extended to include Haliburton Hills, Glen Arbour, Pockwock Road, White Hills subdivision and Lucasville Road all the way to Sackville Drive.

“The fire in Tantallon is obviously very out of control,” Halifax Fire district Chief Rob Hebb said in an interview in the early evening. “It’s jumping roads and it’s affected multiple structures.”

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Hebb said the fire was quickly moving westward, driven by steady winds at 15 to 20 kilometres per hour, with gusts reported at 40 km/h.

“It’s overrunning our crews and most of them are pulling back,” he said, adding wooded areas around the port city remain tinder dry due to a lack of rain. “The plume is visible from everywhere in the Halifax region.”.

On Sunday evening, Halifax Regional Municipality announced that comfort centres at the Canada Games Centre and Beaver Bank Kinsec Community Centre were being opened for those forced to evacuate. A comfort centre at Black Point and Area Community Centre was remaining open Sunday until 10 p.m.

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RCMP said in a statement earlier Sunday afternoon that they had ordered residents to immediately evacuate their homes in the Tantallon subdivsion.

In an update from the province, the evacuation route for residents was listed from Winslow Drive to Hammonds Plains Road, which is about 30 minutes outside of the city limits.

“This is a rapidly moving fire with a number of homes already engulfed. Please remain away from the area to allow our officers and partner agencies to assist with evacuating residents,” police said in a follow-up tweet.

Environment Canada later issued a special air quality statement for the Halifax region.

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“Wildfire smoke can be harmful to everyone’s health even at low concentrations,” the statement read. “Everyone can take action to reduce their exposure to wildfire smoke.”

Pam Lovelace, councillor for the area, said the municipality and local firefighters were “moving very quickly” to work towards containing the spread of the wildfire.

“Throughout the evacuation, everyone is moving quite quickly and being very cooperative to leave the area,” she said. “It’s an all hands on deck so everybody gets out of their safely.”

Hebb said Halifax region firefighters were also trying to douse brush fires in the Lawrencetown and Fall River areas, and he said a call came in for an ammonia leak at a rink in Bedford.

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“Basically, all hell is breaking loose,” he said.

Meanwhile, another wildfire was burning out of control and spreading across the southwestern tip of the province, with officials saying the arrival of hot, dry conditions was intensifying the blaze.

A spokesperson with the province’s Department of Natural Resources said the Shelburne County fire “escaped containment” on Saturday night, growing to about 775 hectares.

Patricia Jreige said there was a growing team of firefighters, air tankers and helicopters battling the flames, but dry, hot and windy weather was making fire suppression challenging.

She said at least one remote cabin in the Barrington Lake area was destroyed while the condition of others was unknown.

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Jreige said a dozen homes in the fire’s path were evacuated Saturday night. More evacuations took place during the day on Sunday.

With files from The Canadian Press

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