Halifax-area neighbourhoods evacuated as fast-moving fire engulfs homes

Halifax-area neighbourhoods evacuated as fast-moving fire engulfs homes
Thick plumes of heavy smoke fill the Halifax sky as an out-of-control fire in a suburban community quickly spread, engulfing multiple homes and forcing the evacuation of local residents on Sunday May 28, 2023.

Thick plumes of heavy smoke filled the sky over Halifax on Sunday as an out-of-control fire in a suburban community quickly spread, engulfing multiple homes and forcing the evacuation of local residents.

“The fire in Tantallon is obviously very out of control,” Halifax Fire district Chief Rob Hebb said in an interview. “It’s jumping roads and it’s affected multiple structures.”

Hebb said the fire was quickly moving westward, driven by steady winds at 15 to 20 kilometres per hour, with gusts reported at 40 km/h.

“It’s overrunning our crews and most of them are pulling back,” he said, adding wooded areas around the port city remain tinder dry due to a lack of rain.  “The plume is visible from everywhere in the Halifax region.”

The province issued two emergency alerts, the first ordering residents of the Westwood Hills subdivision in Tantallon to immediately evacuate the area due to “multiple structure and forest fires.”

The second alert, shared shortly after 6 p.m. local time, said the fire had spread and the evacuation order had been expanded to include the Yankeetown, or Highland Park, subdivision of Hammonds Plains.

RCMP confirmed the fire was moving rapidly through the area, about 30 minutes northwest of downtown.

An official with the provincial Department of Natural Resources said local firefighters and two helicopters are on the scene, but the size of the blaze remained unclear.

The emergency alert directed residents to a comfort centre at the Black Point and Area Community Centre.

Hebb said Halifax region firefighters were also trying to douse brush fires in the Lawrencetown and Fall River areas, and he said a call had just come in for an ammonia leak at a rink in Bedford.

“Basically, all hell is breaking loose,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Halifax-area fires came in addition to two out-of-control blazes in other parts of the province.

Another wildfire burning out of control in southwestern Nova Scotia nearly doubled in size in a matter of hours as warm and windy conditions quickly intensified the flames.

Provincial officials said the Shelburne County wildfire had scorched an estimated 1,354 hectares by Sunday afternoon, growing from 775 hectares earlier in the day.

The fire about an hour southeast of Yarmouth “escaped containment” on Saturday night as searing winds propelled flames through a largely forested area around Barrington Lake, Department of Natural Resources spokesperson Patricia Jreige said in a statement.

A growing crew of emergency officials were on the ground as of late Sunday afternoon, including 35 provincial firefighters and 50 volunteer firefighters.

They are being supported by two helicopters, six air tankers from New Brunswick, heavy equipment and an incident management team, Jreige said.

But the hot, dry weather made fire suppression challenging, she said.

Some local roads were closed as the fire moved, including a growing stretch of Highway 103.

Brett Bundale and Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2023. 

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