Battle against Halifax brush fire continues

   Battle against Halifax brush fire continues

30 April 2009

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Canada — Firefighters stopped battling a massive “out of control” forest fire at nightfall for safety reasons in Halifax, and many homeowners are worried about what they will find at morning light.

Fire officials say they will continue to protect homes overnight, but a number of homes have already been damaged or destroyed.

There are varying accounts about how many homes have been destroyed or damaged in the Spryfield area, southwest of downtown Halifax.

Fire officials have said that the flames have been so intense they can’t get a clear indication on the number of homes affected.

High winds, which frustrated efforts Thursday, are expected Friday morning, but relief could come in the form of rain, which is expected at fall by noon.

Joanne Lawlor of the Red Cross told CTV Newsnet Thursday night that fire officials say that four to seven homes have been destroyed and as many as 10, heavily damaged.

Earlier on Thursday, Mayor Peter Kelly said that 10 homes have been destroyed in the Spryfield area, two along Herring Cove Road and eight on Purcell’s Cove Road.

More than 100 firefighters and 25 emergency response vehicles have responded to the scene, Kelly said. The fire is burning on the southwest side of the Halifax harbour, within the limits of Halifax Regional Municipality.

As of 6 p.m. local time, Kelly said there were no reports of injuries or missing persons.

The fire had been moving unpredictably and more than have 330 homes in the area have been evacuated and many roads have been closed. People whose homes are affected are being asked to go to a facility in nearby Chocolate Lake.

The Red Cross has opened a shelter in Spryfield and have taken in 165 people as of Thursday night, Lawlor said

Officials are going door-to-door to notify residents of the evacuation order.

New Brunswick is sending two water bombers to help with the fire, CTV Atlantic’s Rick Grant reported. A Department of Natural Resources helicopter is already on scene.

The fire started yesterday but was thought to be under control, until winds picked up Thursday afternoon, sparking 15 metre flames that jumped from treetop to treetop.

A huge blanket of smoke is billowing over the skyline of downtown Halifax, a 15-minute drive away from the fire.

Fire officials say they are hoping that winds will die down with nightfall and that the fire will subside overnight.

The area the fire is threatening has a number of new subdivisions, featuring a number of very exclusive houses.

Local musician Brett Ryan told CTV Newsnet that he thought his home, along with a number of his neighbours’, were destroyed in the Fortress Drive subdivision.

He said the situation went from distant smoke to fire in his backyard in a matter of minutes.

Ryan said he and his wife, got their kids, and decided to leave before an official evacuation order was given.

“If we waited another five minutes . . . I dare say we would not have gotten out of there,” he said. “I was actually driving through the flames up the street in order to get out.”

He said that fire officials were not able to tell him for sure that his home was lost, but that the subdivision was extensively damaged and at least one home “blew up” in a propane explosion.

Recent fires near Halifax have been partially blamed on the aftermath of 2003’s Hurricane Juan, which knocked down many trees, leaving forests with a thick underbelly of kindling wood.

There was another massive fire within the HRM last year, and Kelly defended his administration’s response to clearing Juan’s debris.

“Again that’s an issue that we need to deal with the province but that point, right now, we need to get people to make sure they are safe and fire crews have the resources they need to get this job done,” Kelly told CTV Atlantic.

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