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Tent fire at Halifax's Grand Parade leaves volunteers calling the situation an 'emergency'

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An early morning fire has shaken the homeless encampment at Grand Parade in downtown Halifax.

Clouds of thick smoke billowed from one of the tents at city hall on Saturday.

Richard Young was sleeping when he woke up to screams. When he came out he said he saw smoke fill part of the property and then noticed the fire.

“It all went up in probably about 13, 14 seconds. All gone,” said Young.

The volunteers on the ground, Stephan Wilsack and Matthew Grant, grabbed fire extinguishers and blankets to smother the flames.

“Three individuals nearly lost their lives,” said Wilsack.

Firefighters attempt to put a fire out in Halifax's Grand Parade. (Courtesy: Stephen Wilsack)

Wilsack believes the individual living in the tent’s heater caused the fire.

“Probably propane and a blanket being caught on the fire,” he said.

Wilack and Grant promptly contacted the fire department for assistance. As smoke poured from the tent, firefighters doused it in water.

What remains of the tent is a daunting sight for those living in the encampment. What was once a home is now a charred shell.

The smell of melted plastic lingers in the air. A few of the individuals belongings that were salvaged lay nearby. All of it is a devastating blow said Richard Young, who also lives in the encampment.

“How would you react if you lost everything you own in the world? Anything you ever cared about, anything that had any value to you and not have a place to go,” said Young.

The aftermath of a tent fire in Halifax on Dec. 9, 2023. (Hafsa Arif/CTV Atlantic)

The volunteers on the ground are shaken.

“All they want is help and these people are broken and it’s breaking me. It just breaks my heart,” Grant said tearfully.

Wilsack told CTV News the man who was living in the tent was left devastated. Along with most of his belongings, cherished memories of his daughter were also caught in the fire.

As tent communities grow in the city, the demand for propane is on the rise and so is the fire risk.

A fire extinguisher is seen at a homeless encampment at Grand Parade in Halifax. (Hafsa Arif/CTV Atlantic)

On Thursday, crews put out another fire in a tent in Victoria Park, and some volunteers are calling this an emergency.

“This isn’t something that we figure out three or six months from now waiting for tiny homes to come. We need to get this solved now. More people are going to die. More people are going to do things that they shouldn’t be doing because they’re out in the cold,” said Wilsack.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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