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'There is nothing left': 151 Halifax-area homes destroyed by wildfire

A wildfire in northwest Halifax has destroyed more than 150 homes and about 50 other structures, the municipality’s executive director of public safety said Tuesday at a news conference.

Bill Moore says a map on the municipality’s website will show homes inside a “significant impact area” that have been damaged.

Residents inside the area are asked to call 311 or register online and get in contact with officials, More said. Homes outside of the area are believed to be “in good shape.”

Once registered, the city will reach out to residents and give them more information, Moore said. They’ll set up a meet, and if possible, set a time to go back home and “look around.”

Roy Hollett, deputy chief of Halifax Regional Fire, said the number of destroyed homes could increase, but “there is nothing left” of at least 151.

Mayor Mike Savage said he understands why residents want to look inside evacuation areas but urged them not to.

Hollett said there is firefighting equipment strewn throughout theses areas.

“Having people, having traffic in there will impede what we are trying to do.”

He said most of the fires sparking up now are “hot spots” and there are no signs of growth. Adding many are being reported and extinguished quickly.

“But that’s going to be happening for the next few days,” he said.

About 16,000 residents in the area have been asked to leave their homes.

The HRM says residents should know more about the damage in the coming days after detailed mapping is done, although it could take longer as the fire is still burning.

Residents can speak with The Insurance Bureau of Canada on Tuesday at the evacuation centre located at the Canada Games Centre in Halifax.

The evacuation centre, located at 26 Thomas Raddall Dr., is open until further notice.

Nova Scotia Health’s mobile primary care clinic has opened a drop-in clinic at the centre.

The clinic opened at 9 a.m. Tuesday and will close at 5 p.m.

FIRE UPDATE

The province said Tuesday morning the wildfire is estimated to be 788 hectares and remains out of control.

Halifax deputy fire chief David Meldrum also provided an update on the fire Tuesday morning.

Crews remained in the Upper Tantallon area Monday night extinguishing hot spots and areas of open flames, and small fires.

Meldrum said the fire behaviour was stable Monday night, thanks to weather conditions.

“We had a pretty good night. Made some progress and there were no injures and no significant incidents reported from the night operations.”

As of Tuesday morning, 40 Department of Natural Resources and Renewables (DNRR) crews, as well as 80 HRM and Department of National Defence firefighters, are at the scene.

There are also three DNRR helicopters fighting the fire.

Meldrum says Tuesday could be a challenging day due to changing weather conditions.

During the update, Dave Steeves with DNRR added heat from the sun will change the situation on the ground.

“Winds are going to be coming out of the southwest, sustained at 15, gusting to 30 (kilometers), and basically, what that means, is we’re going to be expecting some level of possible significant fire behaviour this afternoon.”

He says safety will be paramount for firefighters on the ground as they continue to focus on structure protection.

Steeves also discussed the possibly of reburn in the area, which he said could create a dangerous environment.

He explained reburn as happening when fire goes through an area and "cures" flammable materials that weren’t consumed the first time it went though.

“It’s so important that folks respect those evacuation zones and stay out,” he said. “We’re not asking them to stay away from their homes because that’s what we want to do. We’re asking them to stay away from their homes because it’s the safest thing for them to do.”

DNRR is leading the investigation in the cause of the fire, which is ongoing.

No missing people or injuries have been reported.

EVACUATION ORDERS

Evacuation orders remain in place for residents in the following communities:

  • Westwood subdivision, Upper Tantallon
  • Whitehills subdivision, Hammonds Plains
  • Highland Park subdivision, Yankeetown
  • Haliburton Hills
  • Pockwock Road
  • Glen Arbour
  • Lucasville Road to Sackville Drive
  • Maplewood
  • Voyageur Way
  • St George Boulevard, including all side streets
  • McCabe Lake area
  • Indigo Shores

A map of the evacuation area and state of emergency area is pictured. (Source: Halifax Regional Municipality)

The Halifax Regional Municipality is reminding residents they are not allowed to return to their homes until municipal authorities say it is safe to do so.

Evacuated residents also must register with 311 via the online form or by calling 1-800-835-6428.

COMFORT CENTRES

The HRM reopened its two comfort centres at 7 a.m. Tuesday. It says they will remain open until further notice.

  • Black Point and Area Community Centre at 8579 St Margarets Bay Rd.
  • Beaver Bank Kinsac Community Centre at 1583 Beaver Bank Rd.

POOR AIR QUALITY

A special air quality statement from Environment Canada remains in effect Tuesday for the area near Tantallon in Halifax Regional Municipality.

“Smoke from a forest fire near Tantallon has reduced visibility and air quality in the area downwind of the fire,” the statement reads. “As the winds strengthen from the southwest this afternoon smoke will spread eastward to communities east of Halifax.

Meldrum said Tuesday morning that EHS has seen an increase in respiratory distress calls from the Tantallon area all the way to Dunbrack Street in Halifax.

“We had some cold air that kind of held the smoke down this morning and kind of pushed it out, laterally. We know motorists on Highway 103 encountered heavy smoke conditions during their morning commute today,” he said.

“I know that folks who are vulnerable that may have compromised immune systems or may have respiratory disease have to be very, very careful in the area of smoke.”

He advises people stay inside and use a mask when outdoors.

“An N95 respirator is a great thing for folks to consider at this time, and we all got a lot of practice with those in recent years,” he said. “This can be a health concern and people should take it seriously.”  

SCHOOL CLOSURES

The Halifax Regional Centre for Education says the following schools are closed Tuesday due to the wildfires and evacuations

  • Bay View High School
  • Tantallon Junior Elementary
  • Tantallon Senior Elementary
  • Five Bridges Junior High
  • St. Margaret’s Bay Elementary
  • Charles P. Allen High
  • Kingswood Elementary
  • Hammonds Plains Consolidated
  • Madeline Symonds Middle School
  • Harry R. Hamilton Elementary
  • Millwood Elementary
  • Millwood High School
  • Sackville Heights Elementary
  • Sackville Heights Junior High

POWER

According to the Nova Scotia Power’s outage map, electricity remains disconnected for more than 4,000 customers in the Upper Tantallon and Hammonds Plains areas as of 7 a.m. Tuesday.

TRANSIT ROUTES

The HRM says the following Halifax Transit routes continue to be affected Tuesday:

  • Route 330 will start and end at Sheldrake Lake -- 3826 St Margarets Bay Rd. There will be no service to the Tantallon Park and Ride located at 3664 Hammonds Plains Rd.
  • Route 433 will start and end at the West Bedford Park and Ride located at 120 Innovation Drive. There will be no service on Hammonds Plains Road from Gary Martin Drive to Tantallon Park and Ride.
  • Route 83/183 will end on Crossfield Ridge in Middle Sackville, N.S. The HRM says the bus will then turn right on Sackville Drive and right onto Melham Drive. Routes 83/183 will hold on Melham Drive before departing, heading back to the Sackville Transit Terminal at 7 Walker Ave.

FIRE WEBPAGE

The Nova Scotia government continues to update a new webpage with the latest emergency alerts and resource information about the wildfires. 

For more Nova Scotia news, visit our dedicated provincial page.

Correction

This article has been edited to correct the spelling of “Tantallon” in the first paragraph.

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