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A Department of Natural Resources helicopter, drops water on a wildfire, near Porters Lake, N.S. on May 23, 2020.

Tim Krochak/The Canadian Press

Nova Scotia fire crews faced rocky terrain and dry conditions as they battled an out-of-control blaze Sunday that forced the evacuation of 523 homes in an area east of Halifax.

David Steeves of the province’s lands and forestry department said the wildfire in the Porters Lake area was 60 per cent contained by early afternoon Sunday, up from 30 per cent the previous evening.

But he also described the work as “a challenge” and “extremely trying” due to rough terrain that made it difficult to reach some areas.

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“We are still very involved in a suppression effort, and we’re taking this extremely seriously,” Steeves said in a media update.

“You can imagine some of the large boulders and whatnot that Halifax County is known for. So they are dragging lots of equipment up and over that. It’s difficult work. It’s tiring work.”

Nevertheless, Steeves said fire crews “are going to bite and claw for every inch.”

Word of the fire first emerged early Saturday afternoon, leading to the closure of area roads and the evacuation of more than 150 homes, involving more than 1,000 residents.

Erica Fleck, the Halifax Region fire emergency management chief, said 523 homes had been evacuated as of noon local time Sunday but there was the possibility that another 500 homes could be evacuated if conditions worsened.

Steeves said strong winds out of the west could push the fire toward the community, noting that weather and extremely dry conditions have made the situation difficult to predict.

Of particular concern is the fact the fire has “hopscotched” through the woods, leaving behind unburned areas Steeves described as “tinder dry and ready to go.”

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He described the blaze as a “dirty burn” as opposed to a “clean burn” which consumes all the fuel.

“So if the fire is to kick back up and come through that area again, we have what we call a reburn,” said Steeves.

“Reburn is extremely dangerous for folks on the ground (and) the potential for reburn is high with the winds that are coming out of the west.”

A rough estimate early Sunday pegged the affected region at approximately 50 hectares.

Steeves said approximately 45 Halifax firefighters were in the woods alongside 30 firefighters with lands and forestry, including an incident management team.

Officials also reminded people of a province-wide ban on burning, saying fire risk in the province is high because of dry conditions, winds and low humidity.

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