Fresh off a helicopter tour of the Porters Lake wildfire, assistant chief Nadya-Lyse Pare was hopeful on Sunday afternoon that they’d be letting people return to their homes that evening.
“Fingers crossed,” she said.
Turns out she was right. Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency crews remained on scene at the fire in the area near Highway 107 and Exit 19 on Sunday evening, but the evacuation order was lifted and all residents were able to return to their homes as of 6 p.m. Exit 19 was to remain closed until 9 p.m.
The Department of Lands and Forestry will continue to maintain the perimeter and monitor the fire, according to a news release issued late Sunday afternoon.
At about noon Saturday, an all-terrain vehicle rider called in a large brush fire near the 100 block of West Porters Lake Road. By Sunday afternoon, the fire had consumed 50 hectares of wood and brushland and forced the evacuation of over 500 homes in the area.
Some 80 firefighters from Halifax Regional Municipality crews and 40 wildland firefighters from the Department of Lands and Forestry spent Saturday afternoon and Sunday scrambling over the rocky terrain to beat back the fire with the assistance of two helicopters.
By Sunday afternoon, crews weren’t fighting a fire with a unified front progressing over unburned forest but rather patches of fire. Pare estimated the fire was 70 per cent contained, calling it a "dirty burn" due to its patchy progression.
“There’s a lot of unburned fuel that’s been primed here and there and everywhere,” said Pare.
“The terrain is so hard on our ground crews, they’re up and down over rocks.”
At the time, crews were hoping the winds stayed low to allow them to push their hard-won advantage over the blaze.
A comfort centre had been set up for evacuees at the Lake Echo Community Centre on Highway 7. Tables were spaced two metres apart, with family groups asked to maintain social distancing precautions during their visits.
The West Porters Lake fire came after a forest fire burned 27 hectares of land in Chester Grant Friday and continued into Saturday. That fire was 100 per cent contained by 4 p.m. on Saturday.
A provincewide ban on burning, including brush and backyard fires, due to dry conditions, winds and low humidity was issued Saturday afternoon.
"The fire ban is on for a reason," Pare said.
"The entire province is very dry and it doesn't take much to start a fire."
The cause of the Porters Lake fire has yet to be determined but will be investigated by the Department of Lands and Forestry.