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'They lost everything': Halifax evacuees grapple with new normal

Officials gave the outside world its first look inside the destruction from the Halifax-area wildfires Tuesday.

Greg Cruikshanks describes the damage to his neighbourhood as, “something out of a Stephen King movie.”

He says he saw blackened and scorched landscapes; homes and cars destroyed.

Cruikshanks' property was saved but he says he feels for those not as fortunate.

“For the people that lost their home, whatever we’re going through is minor compared to what [they’re] experiencing.”

The wildfire was first reported May 28 in Upper Tantallon, about 25 kilometres northwest of downtown Halifax. It moved east and grew to more than 800 hectares. More than 16,000 people were displaced at the height of evacuations. Officials say the fire is now contained.

While some homes burned to the ground, others close-by did not. Dave Meldrum, deputy chief of Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency, says wind and topography randomized the fire’s path.

“It threw embers up into the air, which landed hundreds of metres in front of the flame front,” Meldrum said.

Airborne embers then landed on properties.

“Around the homes, on the back decks,” he said.

Linda Dwyer’s home is still standing but damage to the homes of some friends and family has been staggering.

“Even my paper guy, it’s been 30 year, he’s going to New Brunswick. They lost everything,” Dwyer said, her voice breaking.

Some of those able to go home have to test for contaminated well water, but the Halifax Regional Municipality has temporarily run out of testing kits.

The Hammonds Plains Road, a main artery, reopened to traffic Tuesday morning.

The municipality is asking residents who know their home is in the “area of significant impact” to register with officials by calling 311 or visiting the HRM website.


All Halifax area schools reopened Tuesday.

The Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE) says the following schools have been inspected and no air quality concerns have been reported:

  • Bay View High
  • Hammonds Plains Consolidated
  • Kingswood Elementary
  • Madeline Symonds Middle School

HRCE says the schools have been cleaned and the air filters have been replaced.

Additional support staff will also be at the schools over the coming days to help students in need.


The HRM is providing drop-off food waste bins for residents in Phase 1 and Phase 2 areas that experienced power loss during the mandatory evacuation.

There will be drop-off bins at the following locations on Tuesday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.:

  • 20 Greenhill Rd. at the tennis courts
  • 19 Glen Arbour Way at Eisenhauer Park
  • 446 Sandwick Dr. at Sandwick Park
  • 1452 White Hills Run at White Hills Park
  • 120 Cedarcrest Dr. at Salty Dips Park
  • 134 Micmac Dr. at Micmac Park

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