150 homes destroyed in devastating Halifax wildfire: ‘A very tough time for the community’

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotians fear for their homes as dry weather keeps wildfires burning'
Nova Scotians fear for their homes as dry weather keeps wildfires burning
WATCH: Nova Scotia's wildfires have destroyed or damaged hundreds of structures, and the dry weather is making it challenging for crews to fight the flames. Mike Armstrong reports – May 30, 2023

More than 200 structures, 150 of which are homes, have been destroyed in the ongoing blaze ripping through the Halifax-area communities of Hammonds Plains and Tantallon – one of three out-of-control wildfires straining resources in the province.

The blaze broke out Sunday afternoon in the Tantallon area, about a 30-minute drive from downtown Halifax, and has since grown to about 788 hectares. While the fire has not grown in the last day, it is still not considered to be under control.

Mandatory evacuation orders are in place in a number of neighbourhoods, impacting more than 16,400 residents.

Click to play video: 'Halifax wildfires: Officials expect wind shift which could lead to ‘increased danger’'
Halifax wildfires: Officials expect wind shift which could lead to ‘increased danger’
“It’s been a very tough time for the community, and I know that people will wrap their arms around those who have been so dramatically impacted by the fire,” Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said in a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
Click to play video: 'N.S. wildfires: Dry, hot-weather putting forests at risk'
N.S. wildfires: Dry, hot-weather putting forests at risk

The municipality released an updated map Tuesday afternoon of the areas affected by the local state of emergency, the evacuation zone, and the area of significant impact – where homes are more likely to be damaged and destroyed.

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Savage said those within the area of significant impact are required to register through 311 so the municipality can get in touch with them.

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He said the municipality will announce by 9 a.m. Wednesday if some evacuees can return to the evacuation zone – but stressed that in the meantime people must stay out, and no changes to the evacuation zone will be considered if conditions don’t improve.

David Steeves, a technician of forest resources with the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables, said while the fire was still out of control, it did not progress outside of the perimeter Tuesday.

The fire remains 788 hectares in size and relative humidity levels are expected to rise, which will hopefully reduce fire activity, “so long as winds don’t go too far out of control.”

He noted that crews were busy all afternoon putting out small fires and hot spots.

“They’re working not only to put out a fire, but to save a community,” Steeves said.

Halifax deputy fire Chief David Meldrum said while fire suppression will be reduced into the evening hours of Tuesday, crews will remain on patrol through the night to monitor the fire.

“We’re not going anywhere. We’re committed to staying here,” he said.

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Meldrum reminded people to heed the burn restrictions in the province and to stay away from the evacuation zone.

“It’s still a dangerous place. It’s not ready for you yet,” he said.

3 out-of-control fires

The Halifax-area wildfire is one of several currently burning in the province during what is shaping up to be a very active forest fire season.

Scott Tingley, forest protection manager at Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources and Renewables, said Tuesday that there were a total of 13 active wildfires in Nova Scotia, three of which are out of control.

In the southwestern part of the province, a significant fire at Barrington Lake in Shelburne County has also been burning since Sunday, growing to more than 10,000 hectares and has forcing the evacuation of 600 homes and 2,000 residents in the area.

The wildfire at Barrington Lake, Shelburne Co. Nova Scotia, shown in this hand-out image. Hot, dry and windy conditions are making fire suppression challenging. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources **MANDATORY CREDIT **

“We’ve got a large, out-of-control fire,” Tingley said of the Shelburne County fire. “It’s an evolving situation, crews are being challenged by the fire behaviour at that one today.

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“We do have communities and homes at risk.”

He said crews are hard at work trying to prioritize their resources and limit the impacts of the fire.

A map of the evacuation area in Shelburne County. Facebook/Shelburne County East Emergency Management

“Unfortunately,” said Tingley, a third fire started in the Pubnico area Monday and crews are struggling to get it under control.

“It was last reported at 46 hectares, but it is expected to grow today,” he said.

The hot, dry weather is posing a challenge in fighting the fires.

Environment Canada warning preparedness meteorologist Bob Robichaud said the province is being affected by an area of high pressure, which is “giving generally warmer conditions as to what we saw yesterday.”

He said temperatures are expected to fall Tuesday night, but it will warm up again Wednesday — – before jumping above the 30-degree mark Thursday.

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Click to play video: 'Heroes and helpers emerge during the Nova Scotia wildfire'
Heroes and helpers emerge during the Nova Scotia wildfire

The hot weather and relatively low humidity, said Robichaud, are expected to cause “significantly dry conditions” until Friday, and there could be increased air quality issues, especially in the overnight and early morning hours.

“We were looking at the potential for some rain on Friday,” said Robichaud. “It looks like that might be delayed somewhat – maybe more Friday night into Saturday – so we’re keeping an eye on the rainfall as well.”

While a specific cause of the fires are still unknown, DNRR officials believe they were caused by people, as are most wildfires.

The Department of Natural Resources and Renewables has issued a total burn ban across the province, and Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston announced Tuesday that the province is implementing a ban on travel and activity in the woods.


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