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Eyewitness accounts: A glimpse inside N.S. fire damaged neighbourhoods

A burnt metal frame of a trampoline offers a tiny trace of the young family who until Sunday, lived on Jenna Lane.

The Osbornes left in a hurry, like their neighbours, as a wildfire raged and embers jumped, sparking homes and trees on fire.

A burnt metal frame of a trampoline on Jenna Lane in Hammonds Plains, N.S. (Sarah Plowman/ CTV Atlantic)

That was Sunday evening. By Tuesday morning Danny Osborne had already seen the video of his home on social media. He knew it was destroyed.

When RCMP escorted Osborne and his neighbour Dan Cavanaugh into their Yankeetown subdivision to search for a cat, the 45-year-old couldn’t have imagined what it would be like to stand in front of his home that’s no longer standing.

“It’s a pretty gut-wrenching feeling. Walking around the turn to see your place no longer there,” Osborne said.

On Jenna Lane, a small street that shoots off of Yankeetown Road, Osborne said there’s usually eight homes. On Tuesday he only saw two houses and a garage. 

“And the rest of them are all flattened,” Osborne said.

Dan Cavanaugh, Osborne’s neighbour and friend, had heard rumours his house along Yankeetown Road was destroyed. He was in the truck with Osborne as they went to look for a cat.

When they first pulled onto Yankeetown, the damage didn’t look so bad.

“And we got to our friends’ place, saw her house was completely gone, her neighbour to the left was completely gone,” Cavanaugh said. “Half of our road is gone. There’s no houses left on half of Yankeetown road.”

Cavanaugh’s house was spared.

“I’m elated at the same time I’m heartbroken for our other friends,” he said.

Remains from the Tantallon-area fire taken on May 30, 2023. (Sarah Plowman/ CTV Atlantic)

Maureen and Lorne Smith were also in line for a police escort to get their pets.

Although the videos they had seen online showed their house was standing, they also worried what they might find.

“It looks like a warzone,” Lorne Smith said.

“It's hard to imagine everything black and down. That’s just depressing to me to think,” said Maureen.

When the Smiths picked up their cat, they found their house was okay. The couple attributes this to the nearby pond but added other homeowners nearby were not as lucky. 

Along their route, Lorne Smith counted about a dozen homes destroyed and many are on Yankeetown Road.

“The daycare is gone. The custom woodshop is gone,” he said.

Those who’ve been inside and have seen the damage describe the path of the fire as if it danced or jumped around.

“There’s spots that’s completely green. And then there’s spots right next to it that are burnt,” Lorne said. 

When Danny Osborne left Sunday, he took his trailer with him. It was a decision he learned paid off when he lived through the Fort McMurray wildfires in 2016.

“We lucked out in Fort McMurray because we were actually able to come back to our home, which was still standing there. Here, not so lucky. You’re not gonna get that lucky twice maybe I guess,” he said.

For now, Osborne will live with his family in his trailer in his friend’s yard in Lower Sackville. He’ll soon move his family to a campground.

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