'Sparks flying everywhere': Thousands of residents evacuated due to Halifax-area wildfire
A wildfire has damaged and destroyed several homes in the Halifax area and forced the evacuation of approximately 14,000 residents, according to fire officals.
The wildfire began in the Westwood Hills subdivision of Upper Tantallon, N.S., Sunday afternoon and quickly spread.
It prompted multiple home evacuations from the Tantallon area, down Hammonds Plains Road to Indigo Shores in Middle Sackville.
Evacuated residents packed their cars quickly, grabbing essentials and gathering their pets.
'SPARKS FLYING EVERYWHERE'
Lindley Gray was among the second wave of evacuations in the Yankeetown Road area.
He spoke to CTV News Sunday night at the Black Point and Area Community Centre comfort centre.
He said he used a hose to try and put out a fire in his ditch before he knew it was out of his control and he had to flee.
Gray said there were “sparks flying everywhere.”
“And even on Hammonds Plains, I come out of Yankeetown Road onto Hammonds Plains Road, there was a car in the middle of the lane – burning. And there was one in front of the new casino, there’s a new casino there, there was a car in front of the casino burning,” he said.
He was hoping he could find out the status of his home soon.
“My guts are just churning, just wondering if I’ve got a house left. I mean, it’s a pretty vulnerable spot because we’re just surrounded by woods and stuff. And it’s a typical Nova Scotia house -- vinyl siding and asphalt shingles and all that – great stuff for a fire."
It was a similar story for other people who evacuated the area Sunday.
“We’re just hoping everybody’s OK. And the wind is so unpredictable, and it’s moved so fast, that you’re just hoping everybody’s safe,” said evacuee Dustin O’Leary. “I mean, you know, property and that stuff can be replaced, but people can’t.”
“It was moving really fast,” said Christine Somerville. “That was quite disturbing -- how fast it was going. I was worried that if we didn’t do something when we did -- we could get caught.”
“YOU’VE GOT TO EVACUATE”
Glenn Taylor was outside doing some yard work when he smelled smoke. He went inside to ask his wife about it and she noticed it too.
When he went back outside, he couldn’t believe his eyes.
“I went back out and it was black. I mean the fire had already gone and come towards the home and I could literally see flames coming up over the backside of Shelby Drive,” said Taylor.
It was just after 3:30 in the afternoon and his neighbour along Shelby Drive in Hammonds Plains came running and said “you’ve got to evacuate.”
“My wife gathered up the dogs and the animals in the vehicles and they way we headed out,” said Taylor.
The pair was stalled on the road as traffic was already backed up with people leaving the subdivision.
“It was literally chaos, they couldn’t get cars out and people wouldn’t let you out because people were panicking. They really were panicking,” he said.
Taylor’s home and others in the subdivision were destroyed by the fire.
He hasn’t been able to see it for himself, as the area’s still off limits, but a video posted to social media shows the damage.
“There’s not a house standing there and there’s probably nine of us in a row and there’s nothing.”
Taylor and his wife are safe and staying with friends. Despite losing their home, he’s counting his blessings but says it's a lot to process.
“It’s heartbreaking, it really is. But mind you we’ve had a lot of friends calling us and luckily we have a place to stay now.”
HALIFAX COUNCILLOR TALKS WILDFIRE
Councillor Pam Lovelace also lives in the evacuation zone.
“My home is in the evacuated area, so I don’t know if my home is still standing,” she told CTV’s Sarah Plowman. “We lost a lot of homes. A lot of families are devastated right now.”
She also stressed the importance of residents listening to emergency officials.
“We’re asking people to evacuate. It’s taking up an enormous amount of emergency services, unnecessarily, when people don’t leave their home, because then police have to go door to door, telling people to leave. So if you go willingly that saves our emergency services for elsewhere.”
RESIDENTS RECALL EVACUATING HOMES
On Sunday, Shawn Lavigne was playing pickle ball with friends. Then he saw the emergency alert on his phone.
“It was Upper Tantallon, which I know well, and I live in Hammonds Plains,” said Lavigne, who watched for more alerts, social media notifications and text messages.
“And then the next warning was, it was creeping closer towards where I live,” said Lavigne. “I knew I am not going home.”
Until further notice, he is staying with friends in Brookside.
The Homewood Suites hotel in downtown Halifax is pet-friendly. Michelle Mackay checked in last night with her family and her dog.
“We’re in Hammonds Plains on St. George Boulevard, so we were the last piece to be evacuated,” said MacKay, who watched the fire situation closely on Sunday afternoon and started to pack. “We were quite shocked that we got the emergency alert. And then we got the last minute essentials and packed the truck.”
The Canada Games Centre in Halifax is serving as an emergency evacuation shelter for people displaced by the fire.
Jess Pike from Hammonds Plains is staying with family but she took time Monday to visit the shelter.
“We came here in the hope of maybe getting some more information perhaps,” said Pike, whose essential belongings, including medication and pet food, are crammed in her car. Because she has a dog, staying at this shelter is not an option.
Red Cross emergency manager Ancel Langille wants anyone who has been displaced to seek out the shelter options available.
“If you do not have a place to stay, anyone is welcome to come. They will be registered and provided with a cot, a blanket and pillows,” said Langille, who added there is also food, and there are several evacuation shelters around the HRM.
REGISTER WITH 311
Residents who have been required to evacuate are asked to register with 311 (toll-free at (1-800-835-6428, 1.866.236.0020 for hearing impaired only line teletypewriter users (TTY)).
“Residents are not allowed to return to their homes until they are advised that it is safe to do so by municipal authorities. Residents must remain clear of the area and refrain from filming and taking photos of the fire area, including flying personal drones,” reads a news release from the City of Halifax.
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