Some people who were forced to evacuate due to wildfires in Nova Scotia can return home as some areas begin to reopen after the devastation.
The wildfire in Tantallon, about a 30-minute drive from downtown Halifax, was brought under control over the weekend, thanks to the efforts of firefighters and much-needed rainfall. The fire measures around 950 hectares and is not expected to spread further.
The fire, which broke out on May 28, destroyed about 200 buildings, including 150 homes, and forced the evacuation of more than 16,400 people.
Evacuation orders were lifted on Sunday night in the Glen Arbour area, as well as in the area east of Stillwater Lake.
On Monday evening, the evacuation order was lifted in the Upper Hammonds Plains area (marked as Phase 2 on HRM’s map). Phase 3, which is considered the area of “significant impact” is not expected to reopen for approximately six to 10 days.
Starting at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, through-traffic will be permitted along Hammonds Plains Road.
Police and security will be on hand.
While a province-wide burn ban remains in effect, beginning Monday morning, the province lifted its ban on travel and activity in woods, except in areas where evacuation orders are in place, and in Shelburne County — where the largest fire on record in the province continues to burn.
As of Monday afternoon, the wildfire at Barrington Lake in Shelburne County covered nearly 25,000 hectares, or about 250 square kilometres. Since it began on May 27, the fire destroyed at least 50 homes and cottages and forced more than half of the county’s residents to evacuate.
While the fire continues to pose a challenge, wet weather over the last few days has offered some relief and the fire has not grown substantially since Sunday.
Some evacuation orders were lifted in Shelburne Saturday afternoon for Lake Road and Sandy Point through to Jordan Branch Road.
More evacuation orders were lifted Monday afternoon from 2795 Highway 3 (Saint Phillip’s Roman Catholic Church/Downey Brook) up to and including 1225 Port Latour Road (including Reynoldscroft, Eel Bay, and Blanche).
In a news conference Monday, Premier Tim Houston said the last eight days have been among the most challenging the province has seen, and there remains “many challenging days ahead.”
He said between Tantallon and Shelburne County, around 11,000 people have been able to return home so far.
“There’s still much work to on the fires, particularly the one in Shelburne, but to those who are still evacuated, I want to assure you the focus is on getting you home,” he said.
He noted that wildfires can damage wells and impact drinking water, and said the province is working with municipalities to distribute water testing kits, free-of-charge.
Beginning Tuesday, water testing kits will be available for pickup at the fire station at 2050 Hammonds Plains Road, as well as the Environment and Climate Change Canada regional offices in Bridgewater and Yarmouth. They are only available for those in areas impacted by the fires, he said.
“In the meantime, please use bottled water for drinking, brushing your teeth, and for your pets,” he said.
Houston expressed his sympathies for those who lost their homes and said the province is working on getting them housing.
“We want to work with you to ease whatever stress we can,” he said. “We’re working on options for modular homes, and we’re exploring all other solutions that come forward.”
In a release Monday, Halifax Regional Municipality said the Canada Games Centre is returning to regular programming and is no longer acting as an evacuation centre.
It said over the last several days, residents in the area of significant impact have spoken with municipal staff about the status of their property, and have been able to view photos.
Highway 103 from exits 27 and 30, between Shelburne and Barrington, remains closed due to a fire at the Construction and Demolition Debris Disposal Site. The province said it’s unclear when it will reopen.
While the province is still early in its wildfire season, it’s been a busy one so far.
Scott Tingley, manager of forest protection with the Department of National Resources and Renewables, said there have been 210 wildfires so far this season, which have burned through a total of 26,680 hectares.
As of Monday afternoon, there were five active wildfires, and the only one out of control is the one in Shelburne.