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Halifax studying ways to better protect at risk neighbourhoods from wildfires

August 23, 2023 
By The Canadian Press


Aug. 23, 2023, Halifax – The Halifax Regional Municipality is exploring ways to better protect its vulnerable neighbourhoods from wildfires.

Regional councillors have adopted a motion for staffers to study emergency preparedness strategies, building codes and land-use policies to make districts and homes more fire-resistant.

“We need to start having hard discussions about hard choices,” Coun. Waye Mason said at a regional municipality meeting on Tuesday. “How buildings get built is a big part of that.”

The motion comes just a few months after wildfires in Halifax suburbs destroyed dozens of homes and forced the evacuation of thousands of residents. Now, municipal staff will review standards for new property developments and explore requirements for evacuation routes and emergency water sources, among other things.

Council also directed staff to gather data on wildfire risk assessments and create a prioritized list of communities that are “within the wildland urban interface.”

Mason said he has seen plots of land being sold close to the forested area recently hit by wildfires. He said the planned development “goes straight into the woods” and has a single exit route.

“We can’t keep permitting that,” he said. “We have to make it safe, and now we know that’s clearly not safe.”

Mason, who jointly brought forward the motion with Coun. Pam Lovelace, said the motion is the beginning of a larger conversation, adding that the municipality has seen smaller wildfires over the past 15 years.

Lovelace said the work “should be done, and should have been done long ago.”

Lovelace told council that a master’s student came before the municipality’s environment committee in 2013 and presented a wildfire-risk study that showed “significant issues” with a lack of fire mitigation in some neighbourhoods.

“Nothing happened with it,” she said, “but it was telling folks we got a problem.”


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