Canada Halifax Wildfire

Thick plumes of heavy smoke fill the Halifax sky as an out-of-control fire in a suburban community quickly spread, engulfing multiple homes and forcing the evacuation of local residents, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Sunday. Kelly Clark/The Canadian Press via Associated Press

Smoke from wildfires in Nova Scotia is drifting into Maine, prompting state officials to issue a health warning about poor air quality Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday.

Officials in Halifax, Nova Scotia, said late Monday that about 200 homes or structures had been damaged by the fires, based on initial visual inspections by first responders. Halifax deputy fire Chief David Meldrum said Tuesday that an estimated 16,000 people were told to flee their homes, most of which are about a 30-minute drive northwest of downtown Halifax.

Several fires have been burning for more than two days in Nova Scotia and the smoke has moved into the Gulf of Maine, where winds were carrying it into Maine on Tuesday afternoon and evening, according to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. The DEP issued an alert saying particle pollution was expected to reach moderate levels by Tuesday afternoon. Mainers may notice the odor of smoke, hazy skies and reduced visibility. 

The plume of smoke was expected to arrive with an afternoon sea breeze and move inland overnight, the DEP said. There could be a few hours with higher levels of particle pollution, but the 24-hour average is expected to stay in the moderate range on the state’s Air Quality Index.  

At elevated particle pollution levels, children, healthy adults who exert themselves and individuals suffering from a respiratory disease such as asthma, bronchitis or COPD can experience reduced lung function and irritation. Symptoms can include shortness of breath, coughing, throat irritation and an uncomfortable sensation in the chest.

When air pollution levels are elevated, the state recommends avoiding strenuous outdoor activity and closing windows to protect indoor air quality.


As firefighters spent a second day battling the wildfire in suburban Halifax, some residents from evacuated subdivisions received the grim news that their homes were among those destroyed by the wind-driven flames. Katherine Tarateski said police told her Monday that her home was burned down and they couldn’t find her pets.

Tarateski said she was with her husband, Nick, and their young daughter Mia at a family gathering on Sunday when they heard about the approaching fires and rushed back to their home in Hammonds Plains to save their dog and cat. But when they arrived police had already blocked their street.

“The house can be rebuilt,” she said. “But my pets … I’m just devastated. It’s hard.”

Fire officials said there are no reports of deaths or injuries from the out-of-control fire, which started Sunday in nearby Upper Tantallon.

By early Monday afternoon, Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources confirmed the wildfire covered about 3 square miles. Meldrum said firefighters worked through Monday night to extinguish hotspots.

“This fire has not been contained, this fire is not under control,” he said. “It did not spread appreciably and that is thanks to weather, the work of the firefighters on the ground and the work of the air units.”

However, Meldrum stressed a change in weather conditions forecast for the rest of the week could complicate things. The extended forecast in that area is calling for hotter weather Wednesday and no rain until Friday at the earliest.

David Steeves, a forest resources technician with Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources, said the fire was helped by a lack of rain and a wooded area thick with softwood trees, which provide a volatile fuel source. “It was perfect conditions for a fast, quick, dangerous fire,” Steeves said.

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