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First estimates suggest 200 homes, other structures damaged in Halifax fires

By Steve MacArthur May 29, 2023 | 6:00 AM

Devastating losses as we are getting a better sense of the size and scale of the Tantallon fire.

Initial estimates suggest 200 homes or structures have been lost or damaged in the fires which broke out on Sunday.

The fire in the Tantallon/Hammonds Plains area is about 800 hectares, and has forced roughly 16,400 people out of their homes.

Mayor Mike Savage says this has been a devastating couple of days in our community and most of all for those who have lost their homes and possessions.

He adds in the coming days we will all come together to support them.

On Tuesday, a mobile mental health clinic will be set up at the Canada Games Centre in Halifax for those impacted by the wildfires.

The LifeWorks Crisis Support Line is open 24/7 and can be reached at 1-844-751-2133 for professional emotional support.

All residents who have been required to evacuate are reminded they must register with 311 (toll-free at 1.800.835.6428) as staff will follow up when more information becomes available.

The city has declared a local state of emergency and is asking residents not to return to their homes.

The use of all off-highway vehicles is within HRM is also banned at the moment. Currently, first responder resources are stretched very thin with more than 200 firefighters working this situation and dozens more in Shelburne. The ban is to make sure officials don’t have to deal with other incidents.

Mayor Mike Savage meets with a firefighter at the command centre in Tantallon.

Deputy Chief Dave Meldrum expects evacuation orders to be in place for a number of days.

Firefighters on scene include, 40 from the Department of Natural Resources and 80 from HRM and the Department of Natural Defence.

Three helicopters are also on scene.

Evacuation orders remain in place for the following communities and neighbourhoods:

  • Highland Park
  • Haliburton Hills
  • Westwood Hills
  • Glen Arbour
  • Pockwock Road
  • White Hills subdivision
  • Lucasville Road to Sackville Drive
  • Maplewood
  • Voyageur Way including St. George Boulevard (and side streets)
  • McCabe Lake
  • Indigo Shores

A map of the evacuated area:

Source: HRM

Anyone in the yellow zone must be ready to leave quickly and should pack enough for 72 hours. You can call 311 or check @hfxgov for more information on where you can find shelter.

Money to help evacuees

Premier Tim Houston has announced $500 for every household that had to evacuate in HRM and Shelburne County. It will be administered through the Canadian Red Cross.

“Our hearts go out to everyone impacted by these fires. We know you are experiencing uncertainty and distress. We see that and want to try to ease a small portion of the financial stress,” said Premier Houston. “This funding can help with urgent needs such as food and personal care items while people are displaced.”

Volunteer firefighters will also receive support as the province will now pay the mileage for volunteer firefighters who need to travel to another community to fight fires, including wildfires.

“Our firefighters are saving lives, homes and communities. More support will make it easier for them to be the heroes they are,” said Houston. “I’ve seen the images, I’ve seen the videos, and I’ve seen the reality of what’s happening, the damage that’s being caused, and it’s very scary. It’s very scary for sure.”

Comfort centres in HRM are located at:

  • Black Point and Area Community Centre | 8579 St Margarets Bay Road. The comfort centre opened at 7 a.m. and will remain open until further notice.
  • Beaver Bank Kinsac Community Centre | 1583 Beaver Bank Road. The comfort centre opened at 7 a.m. and will remain open until further notice.
  • Canada Games Centre | 26 Thomas Raddall Drive. The comfort centre is open until further notice.

Resources for pets 

Halifax Fire is asking everyone to take their pets with them as they evacuate. If you need a safe place for your pets call:

  • SPCA: they are close to full now but can direct you where to go – 902.229.8620
  • Halifax County Exhibition Grounds: 190 Exhibition Grounds Rd. for any animals evacuated from the fires. There is power and water in the barns, 2 arenas for turn out, a shower for you at Harrison House.

As of Monday morning, the Nova Scotia SPCA has helped 86 evacuated animals and with help from foster families and partners is making room to help more.

At this time, the following schools will be closed on Tuesday, May 30, 2023:

  • 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
  • Harry R. Hamilton Elementary
  • Millwood Elementary
  • Millwood High School
  • Sackville Heights Elementary
  • Sackville Heights Junior
  • Charles P. Allen High School

The Sackville Sports Stadium pool is closed due to air quality issues, resulting from smoky conditions outside.  Staff are continuing the monitor the air quality throughout the building.

Halifax Transit impacts in fire zone:

Route 330 – Route 330 will start and end at Sheldrake Lake (3826 St Margarets Bay Road). There will be no service to Tantallon Park and Ride (3664 Hammonds Plains Road).

Route 433 – Route 433 will start and end at West Bedford Park and Ride (120 Innovation Drive). There will be no service on Hammonds Plains Road from Gary Martin Drive to Tantallon Park and Ride.

Route 83/183 – Route 83/183 will end on Crossfield Ridge. 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 Sackville Terminal (7 Walker Avenue).

Stories of businesses stepping up to help are emerging as people had to leave home on short notice. Andy Doughty, owner of Handy Cabs in Enfield started offering rides to those without a vehicle. He says kindness plays a big role in our province.

“It’s one of those things, where, if that fire was up in Enfield, people would come and help up here. I know they would; it’s just how Nova Scotia is.”

Although Doughty put out his offer on Sunday, he is not putting a timeline on when it will expire. As long as people are stranded because of the fire, he is willing to lend his wheels.

“With forest fires, you can’t tell when it’ll end. It could be a few hours, it could be a few days. The offer’s there as long as it’s needed.”

In some positive news, several horses in the fire danger area that were set free because owners could not evacuate them in time have been recaptured.

Places like the Truro Raceway, Arbour Ridge and the Central Nova Horse Park offered to take in any horses to their stables.

Meantime, an air quality alert remains in place in Halifax and Shelburne and looking at the forecast, much needed rain is not expected anytime soon.

Smoke covers evening sky in Dartmouth. Photo: Steve MacArthur

There is a province-wide ban on fires for any reason within 1,000 feet of the woods, including private campgrounds, provincial parks, and backyard fires.

The fire ban is in effect until June 25 or otherwise indicated.

Smoke from the fire can be clearly seen in downtown Halifax as the prevailing winds blow it across much of HRM.


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