Halifax requests federal assistance as out-of-control wildfire burns
The Halifax mayor is asking for help from the federal government as a wildfire burns in the city’s northwest.
Mike Savage says he spoke with federal Minister of Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair Wednesday afternoon and requested firefighting equipment.
“We’ve been given every assurance they will do everything they can to get them to us,” Savage said at a Wednesday news conference.
Roy Hollett, deputy chief of Halifax Regional Fire, said portable water trailers, brush trucks, and structural protection units — trailers containing pumps, hoses and other firefighting gear — are on the municipality’s request list.
The fire, which started Sunday in Upper Tantallon, has grown to about 830 Hectares. More than 16,000 people have been ordered to evacuate and at least 151 homes have been destroyed.
Savage scolded people breaking an ongoing burn ban and said eight calls came in for open fires Tuesday night.
“We’re fed up,” said Savage. “It would be nice in a time of crisis if we could have a no stupid policy.”
Premier Tim Houston announced Wednesday afternoon that fines for burning will be raised to $25,000.
Hollett said an investigation into how the Upper Tantallon fire began is currently underway.
Dave Steeves, with Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources and Renewables (DNRR), provided an update on the fire Wednesday morning along with Halifax Fire deputy chief David Meldrum.
Steeves attributes the fire growth -- of about 49 hectares -- to Tuesday’s fire behaviour and more accurate mapping.
“It’s not something that we didn’t foresee happening yesterday, with the weather that we had. And we were fortunate with the hard work of the firefighters on the ground that we were able to hold it to where we did.”
He says Wednesday could be another difficult, dangerous day, with winds gusting up to 25 kilometers out of the southwest and low humidity at around 20 per cent.
“When our relative humidity levels get close to the forecasted temperature of today, that’s a phenomenon of what we call crossover and the phenomenon of crossover is an indicator of extreme fire behaviour.”
Meldrum says approximately 100 firefighters are working on hotspots and flare ups Wednesday, including two units from Charlottetown.
More than 50 DNRR firefighters are also at the scene, including nine from the Department of National Defence and three helicopters.
Meldrum also said he can’t speculate as to when the fire will be under control or when evacuation zones will change to allow people to return to their homes.
“I would encourage all of us to be ready for a long fire fight. We’ve got a lot of dry weather days ahead, we’ve got low humidity forecasted. This is going to be a prolonged operation.”
He describes the site of the fire as a “tragedy” with wide-spread destruction.
“And, at the same time, there is a level of randomness that comes with wildfires when they hit the urban interface, where people live. So there are properties that are unharmed in close proximity to properties that are destroyed. It’s terrible to see – these are people’s homes, this is a community.”
Steeves stressed that fire officials are not keeping residents out of their homes because they want to.
“This is to keep people alive. This is a very dangerous situation. It’s changing every moment, with wind, with fuels, with the lay of the land, how the sun is heating the fuels – everything is constantly evolving,” he said.
“We have to take the safest route for the citizens that we are here serve and if that is keeping them at bay a little bit longer until we can ensure the environment is safe for them to return, that’s what we have to do. It’s not what we want to do, it’s what we have to do.”
EVACUATION ORDER RESCINDED
An emergency alert issued Wednesday evening at approximately 7:30 p.m., stated the evacuation order is rescinded for residents of Indigo Shores only. Residents can re-enter starting at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and can only enter via Margeson Drive with identification showing their address.
The alert also reminded residents that there is still an active fire in the Tantallon area and, until otherwise notified, they are placed on a 30-minute evacuation notice.
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
- Voyageur Way
- St George Boulevard, including all side streets
- McCabe Lake area
Pre-evacuation notices are also in place for a separate fire in the Bedford, N.S., area.
An updated evacuation map for the Halifax-area due to wildfires. (Source: Halifax Regional Municipality)
The Canada Games Centre evacuation centre at 26 Thomas Raddall Drive in Halifax is open until further notice.
Nova Scotia Health’s mobility primary care clinic is hosting another drop-in clinic at the centre until 5 p.m.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada and seven major insurance companies will be available to speak with affected residents at the centre until 5 p.m.
They will also be at the Black Point and Area Community Centre until noon.
- Black Point and Area Community Centre at 8579 St Margarets Bay Rd. reopened at 8 a.m. and will close at 9 p.m.
- Beaver Bank Kinsac Community Centre at 1583 Beaver Bank Rd. reopened at 9 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.
The Halifax Regional Centre for Education says the following schools are closed Wednesday due to wildfires and evacuations:
- Bay View High School
- Tantallon Junior Elementary
- Tantallon Senior Elementary
- Five Bridges Junior High
- St. Margaret’s Bay Elementary
- Kingswood Elementary
- Hammonds Plains Consolidated
- Madeline Symonds Middle School
- Charles P. Allen High School
- Basinview Drive Community School
- Bedford South School
- Harry R. Hamilton Elementary
- Millwood Elementary
- Millwood High School
- Sackville Heights Elementary
- Sackville Heights Junior High
As of 9 a.m. Wednesday, more than 3,000 Nova Scotia Power customers in the Upper Tantallon and Hammonds Plains areas were without electricity.
The Nova Scotia government continues to update a new webpage with the latest emergency alerts and resource information about fires in the province.
For more Nova Scotia news, visit our dedicated provincial page.
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