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A 'whole list of hazards' are keeping residents near N.S. fire zones under evacuation: officials

It is still not safe for some evacuated residents whose houses were spared from wildfire damage to return home, officials from Halifax Regional Municipality and the District of Shelburne said.

Erica Fleck, Halifax’s director of emergency management, said Wednesday there is a long list of potential risks left over from wildfires in some parts of the municipality.

“We have oil furnaces spilled, we have propane tanks blowing up as recently as yesterday. Streets may not be clear — there are still downed power lines on some streets. Well caps are off. We have sunken sewers spewing,” Fleck said during a news conference Wednesday.

“We have a whole list of hazards that are still ongoing that do not make it safe for people to traverse through those neighbourhoods.”

Shelburne District Warden Penny Smith said the same concerns are preventing some residents from returning home in her region, and that inspections need to be completed before all evacuees are safe to return.

At a peak, about 16,500 Nova Scotians between the Halifax and Shelburne counties were forced to evacuate due to several out-of-control wildfires.

Fleck said the municipality is working with the province to take care of those concerns “as soon as possible” so residents can return to their homes.

UPDATE ON WILDFIRES

As of Wednesday afternoon, the largest of the five active wildfires in Nova Scotia has been classified as “being held.” The wildfire at Barrington Lake is measured at 23,400 hectares and is not currently moving or growing, but is not under control.

About 130 Department of Natural Resources and Renewables firefighters and two helicopters are on scene alongside a group of 40 volunteer and municipal firefighters.

The four other active wildfires in the province are considered under control, and they are located at Lake Road in Shelburne, Pubnico, Tantallon and Hammonds Plains. Firefighters remain in these areas patrolling.

The province also said Wednesday that the section of Highway 103 in Shelburne that has been closed due to wildfires will be reopened to a select group of drivers for a period of 10 hours each day.

The Department of Public Works said in a statement that health-care workers and commercial vehicles carrying 14,000 kilograms or more will be welcome to use the highway overnight between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.

During the day the highway will be entirely closed to traffic except for emergency vehicles.

The province said health-care workers will need to provide identification to access the highway and all drivers will be escorted between the closed portion of road between exit 27 and 30.

"Reopening the highway is a priority to support emergency and essential workers and to help communities in the evacuation zone prepare for returning residents. At this time, it is not intended for general public use," Public Works Minister Kim Masland said in a statement.

The province is offering $500 per household for evacuees. Businesses in the evacuation zone can also receive a $2,500 one-time-grant.

Nova Scotia’s Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday that a $2,500 one-time-grant will also be available for registered farmers in the evacuation zone.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page

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