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Halifax area fires contained, ban on going in woods will be lifted

By Joe Thomson Jun 4, 2023 | 6:03 AM

The devastating Tantallon wildfire that ravaged a part of Halifax, is now under control at 950 hectares. The smaller wildfire, in Hammonds Plains is also contained.

Officials say they are still not out, but not expected to move.

In response to the progress made to extinguish these fires, Premier Tim Houston announced the province is lifting the ban on travel and activity in the woods as of 12:01 a.m. on Monday.

“The change in the weather, and the change in the overall fire situation, mean that we can lift the ban… This is very positive. I know this ban has had an impact on many people, and I want to thank Nova Scotians for doing their part to respect the ban and keep the province safe,” said Houston.

The ban was announced on Tuesday in an effort to limit more wildfires from popping up while resources were already stretched thin.

Houston reminded people that while the ban may be lifting, to use caution and common sense when in the woods.

“I’m also pleading with anyone who’s going into the woods; Don’t be stupid. Be safe, be fire smart. Don’t flick a dart. Don’t have a bonfire,” said Houston.

The $25,000 fine for violating the province wide burn ban is still in place. Over 16,000 were evacuated since the fire started last Sunday damaging or destroying 151 homes out of 200 structures.

Many firefighters remain on scene in the Tantallon area including 40 from DNRR, 30 from HRM and nine from the Department of National Defence.

Shelburne fire still out of control 

The massive wildfire in Barrington, Shelburne County, remains out of control at 24, 980 hectares.

About 114 firefighters from DNR remain fighting the blaze as well as firefighters from the United States including Maine and Connecticut. Four helicopters and four water bombers from Newfoundland and Labrador are also working to put out the fire.

More than 20,000 Nova Scotians were evacuated since the start of the fires and many homes destroyed.

The fire in Shelburne County remains the largest in the province’s history.

Reopening of Highway 103

Shelburne residents will be pleased to hear that as of 10:00 a.m. Monday morning, officials will be opening highway 103 for people to be escorted through the impacted area.

Areas within the evacuation zone that are off of the 103 will still be restricted until officials deem them safe to be reopened.

“There’s a lot of business a lot of industry down here and a lot of people in general rely on that road,” said DNRR spokesperson for the Shelburne fire complex, Dave Rockwood.

First responders sign Nova Scotia strong flag. Source: N.S. Government

40-80mm of rain on the way 

Environment Canada is calling for soaking rain to start Sunday afternoon and to persist into Tuesday morning, which will hopefully provide much more relief.

A low-pressure system is developing off the U.S. eastern seaboard and has the potential to bring significant rainfall amounts to start the week across many areas in Nova Scotia.

There is uncertainty at this time of the heaviest total amounts, but it is forecasted to be between 40 and 80 mm.

Source: N.S. Government

The national forecaster says to be aware of any alerts regarding a rainfall warning.  Those are issued in the Maritimes when total amounts are expected to be 50 mm in 24 hours, and 75 mm in 48 hours.

Red Cross sends out over $2M to help evacuees

A shelter managed for the past five days by the Canadian Red Cross at the Canada Games Centre complex in Halifax for wildfire evacuees has closed, as it was no longer required.
A partial lifting of evacuation orders on Friday afternoon allowed more than 4,000 people to return to their homes and the need for the shelter immediately dropped. Only seven people from four households in Halifax Regional Municipality still require Red Cross help with emergency lodging, and all of them were relocated Friday night to area hotels.
Canadian Red Cross teams continue managing two emergency shelters for wildfire evacuees in Shelburne County, located at the municipal building-fire hall on King Street in Shelburne and the Sandy Wickens Memorial Arena on Park Lane (Sherose Island) in Barrington. Four evacuees stayed overnight Friday at the Shelburne shelter, and 33 stayed at the Barrington site.
The Red Cross continues its focus on the distribution of one-time emergency payments of $500.
More than 7,500 households have already registered for that financial aid, and as of noon Saturday, more than $2.25 million had already been distributed to 4,520 households through electronic fund transfers directly to bank accounts.
Eligible households that have not yet registered are encouraged to do so as soon as possible using one of three means:
  • Online at redcross.ca/AtlanticWildFires
  • By phone to 1-800- 863-6582 daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Atlantic time
  • In person with a Canadian Red Cross team at the HRM 4-Pad recreation complex, 61 Gary Martin Drive, Bedford, daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Atlantic time.


The evacuation order has been lifted for the following areas:

NOTE: Residents are not allowed to return to their homes until they are advised that it is safe to do so by municipal authorities.

The status of the evacuation zone continues to be assessed and an update on any changes will be shared immediately after a decision has been made.

View the most recent map of the fire evacuation areas and state of local emergency zone that outlines the area of significant impact.

The municipality will make a further announcement regarding the next phase of lifting evacuation orders in specific communities.

Based on current status, and requirements to complete further safety assessments, residents may not be able to return to the area of significant impact for several days. While the broader evacuation area was less severally impacted by fire, there are many properties within that area that have been impacted by smoke and debris.

View the Indigo Shores map.

Returning to evacuation areas

The municipality says residents may not be able to return to the area of significant impact for several days, depending on the completion of safety assessments.

The broader evacuation area was less severely impacted by fire with many properties that have been impacted by smoke and debris.

Prior to the return of residents to the evacuation area:

• Soil sampling and air quality assessment will be completed by the municipality, in collaboration with the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Climate Change, to confirm safe levels
• Water supplies will be made available in all neighbourhoods
•Solid waste containers will be placed in neighbourhoods where they are required and collected on a regular basis until no longer necessary

Following the return of residents to the evacuation area:

•Ongoing monitoring of air quality
•Ongoing provision of water supplies
•Security will be provided in neighborhoods located in the area of significant impact (specifically to monitor those properties that are not inhabitable) and this service will continue until determined to be no longer necessary
•All contractors secured by the municipality to provide recovery phase services will be verified and security passes will be provided

Well water safety

Well water may be contaminated after a wildfire, with bacteria and chemicals that can make you sick.

Contamination can come from the fire itself, from products used to light the fire and from chemicals that seep into the water supply if things such as oil tanks, were damaged.

For information on well safety, see provincial guidelines.

The following schools will be closed Monday, June 5:

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

“It won’t be learning as usual tomorrow as we reopen schools. The focus will be on helping, healing and well-being. Students will find a place of familiarity, comfort, and routine. If your child isn’t ready to return, that’s okay too. Please remember that you always have the option to keep your children home,” said Steve Gallagher, Regional Executive Director. “Students will not lose out on opportunities for learning, and no assessments, assignments or other schoolwork will be counted as missed.”

All other schools will be open.

Small businesses are getting some relief

Many small businesses across the province have had to close their doors this week as the wildfires continue to burn out of control.

Some are located inside of the evacuation zones and aren’t able to visit let alone open up shop. Others have employees or owners who were impacted b the fires and cannot open up while they grieve their loses.

Premier Tim Houston announced this afternoon that those businesses will get some help from the provincial government.

“They have some immediate needs, so today I’m announcing that small businesses in the evacuation zones can apply for a one-time grant of up to $2,500. To help offset the costs of unanticipated business closures,” said Houston.

Premier Tim Houston gives an update on the wildfires raging across the province.

The province will begin taking applications for the grant on Monday.


Long term impacts

With major wildfires burning across the province, conservationists are concerned for their long term impacts.

Doug van Hemmesen from the Nature Conservancy of Canada, says some of the old growth forests affected by the wildfires may take centuries to recover.

“They’re old because they’ve been growing for quite a long time…100, 200 years…and obviously it’s going to take that long to return the conditions so that they are similar,” Hemmesen said.

One of eight aircraft from New Brunswick that drops a mix of water and fire retardant makes a pass over the fire near Barrington Lake, Shelburne County. (Communications NS Photo)

Old growth forests are a very rare echo system in Nova Scotia, and are home to some endangered species of lichen.

Van Hemmesen says the chances of those lichens surviving a wildfire is almost nil.

RCMP remind people to stay out of evacuation zones

Officers have been continuously reminding folks to stay away from the evacuated areas. With more than 20,000 people evacuated across the province, some have tried to enter the zone illegally to retrieve forgotten items, or simply look around.

Cpl. Guillaume Tremblay reminded everyone that the evacuation zones are in place for the public’s safety. There are still active fires burning inside of them and firefighters need space to maneuver.

A volunteer’s perspective

Hundreds of brave people have been battling the wildfires all week long. Many of them volunteers.

Wayne Davin spent some time as a volunteer firefighter as he says he’s seen his fair share of wildfires. He says they’re a different beast.

“It’s a different experience altogether. You gotta be there to know what it feels like. It’s not for everybody, let’s just say,” said Davin.

Crews had to deal with extreme weather conditions yesterday with temperatures reaching 35 degrees in some parts of the province. Davin says that when you’re fighting a fire, you have to try your best to ignore the discomfort and focus on the task at hand.

“Just keep going. Don’t think about it. Just keep going and do your job,” said Davin.

With files from Steve MacArthur, Kevin Northup, Caitlin Snow, and Evan Taylor.


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