After a week of devastating damage, wildfires in the Halifax area are now 100 percent under control, the Department of Natural Resources said.
In a release on Sunday, DNR officials said the Tantallon-Westwood Hills fire now covers an estimated 950 acres. Nearly 80 firefighters remain on site.
An emergency warning issued shortly before 3 p.m. Sunday said residents of Glen Arbor could return to their homes immediately and people in the area east of Stillwater Lake could return by 4 p.m.
The warning said Hammonds Plains Road is closed and the Stillwater Lake area should be accessible from the Tantallon side. Glen Arbor must be accessible from the Bedford side, the warning said.
Residents of both areas must identify themselves to enter the area.
With the help of persistent rain, the fire brigade was able to control the fire for 85 percent on Saturday.
The fire damaged or destroyed 150 homes and more than 200 buildings last weekend.
A much smaller wildfire in Hammonds Plains, at just four acres, is also under control, according to Sunday’s update.
The Halifax Regional Municipality announced on Sunday that residents in “significant impact areas” were able to visit the Canada Games Center from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to view photos of damaged property and talk to council officials about the status of their homes. Major insurance companies would also be on site, the press release said.
The city said earlier Sunday it planned to let residents back into the area as soon as “it’s safe to do so.” But those in the area with a significant impact may not be able to return for several days, said the city, which said safety assessments should be carried out first.
Meanwhile, the Regional Municipality of Halifax is using powers granted by the local state emergency to install two permanent fire exits in the Haliburton Hills and Highland Park subdivisions.
The Haliburton Hills exit, which will connect Buckingham Drive to Highway 103, is already under construction.
The evacuation in Highland Park, which goes from the end of Sylvania Terrace to the Hammonds Plains Road, will begin as soon as it is safe to do so, officials say.
Pam Lovelace, city councilor for the Hammonds Plains area, said safety measures were not “really taken into account” when the communities were designed to ensure residents could be evacuated from the area if the main route was cut.
There is much more work to be done.—Pam Lovelace
She said residents have been talking about the problem for decades.
“More evacuation routes are needed for Westwood Hills, White Hills, Glen Arbour, Maplewood and Upper Hammonds Plains,” Lovelace said. “There’s a lot more work that needs to be done.”
At a press conference Sunday afternoon, Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said public safety is now a planning priority for new communities, and that older communities “probably need more support than they have” to get people out.
Savage said some recent development proposals have been rejected because they don’t include enough ways to get residents out in an emergency.
“As we… build, we need to make sure we are prepared for emergencies, but also for the environment,” he said.
“We need housing in this community…but we’re going to do it safely.”
Lovelace said it is not possible to give a timeline for the completion of the new routes while emergency work is still taking place in the evacuated zone.
On Sunday afternoon, the county lifted restrictions on travel and forest activities in all areas except Shelburne County and wherever evacuation orders are in effect, effective midnight.
“We know that the use of our forests and trails is important to the physical and mental health of many Nova Scotians,” Tory Rushton, the Minister of Natural Resources, said in a press release.
“Thanks to the weather, conditions in the province have improved, but we still have to be careful.”
Activities that are now allowed include hiking, camping, fishing, and using vehicles in the forest. The countywide ban on fires remains in effect, and the fine for a violation is $25,000.
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