1,100 evacuated due to massive Halifax brush fire

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency Service reported that a blaze which started Thursday outside of Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada was brought under control by Friday afternoon with the help of a rainstorm Friday morning.

"If we didn't have the rain, this fire may not be under control," Lloyd Currie, a spokesman for the Halifax Regional Fire Service said. "We're happy that we're having this rain. We just need more of it."

Hurricane Juan in 2003 produced downed trees and brush to fuel this year's fire which spread through the area at 36 metres (118 feet) per minute. On Thursday, the fire was settling down, but when high winds fanned the blaze, the fire surged out of control, creating flames 15 meters (49.2 ft) high which leapt from treetop to treetop.

Between 800 to 1,200 hectares (2,000 to 3,000 acres) of forest were destroyed, as were eight homes. Another ten homes were also damaged as high winds fanned the flames through the district. Police are investigating a possible case of arson during the brushfire when residents were evacuating.

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Over 100 firefighters and five helicopters were out fighting the fire.

People were awakened from their sleep at three a.m. local time to report into the Red Cross evacuation centre. Residents reported driving through flames in their home driveways to escape the brush fire.

On Wednesday, firefighters thought a fire in the same district was under control. Currie feels that the Thursday wildfire was a separate fire distinct from the one started on Wednesday.

“We warned the people as fast as we could,” said Currie. Altogether about 1,100 persons were displaced because of the fire and about 500 homes were abandoned.

Peter Kelly, Mayor of Halifax toured the devastation by air. “It's a shock. Where homes used to be they are no longer. It's surreal for me,” he said.

On Friday no flames were visible, but hot spots remained.

Halifax Regional Municipality, with a population of 282,924 in 2006, is the capital of the province of Nova Scotia.


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