Nova Scotia

Climate change increases wildfire risk in Halifax: study

A new study paints an alarming picture about the link between climate change and forest fire risk, triggering calls for changes in the Halifax region to protect homeowners and their property.
A forest fire burns Friday about 270 kilometres north-northeast of Sioux Lookout, Ont. Scientists say a hotter planet will only increase the risk of ferocious fires. (Mitch Miller/Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources/Canadian Press)

A new report paints an alarming picture about the link between climate change and forest fire risk, triggering calls for changes in the Halifax region to protect homeowners and their property.

"I've projected that fire weather indices, which represents the potential for fire severity on any given day, are going to increase in this region under climate change," said Dalhousie University researcher Ellen Whitman, co-author of the report.

The study, Future Wildfire Risk in the HRM Wildland-Urban Interface Under Climate Change, suggests the city require metal roofs in suburban subdivisions and create bylaws to clear space around residential homes.

The councillor for Fall River said that might not be feasible.

"We've had some major rainstorms and without trees, the flooding," said Coun. Barry Dalrymple.

Over the next hundred years the risk of wildfires could actually decrease as local forests change from softwood to hardwood trees. But the study found in the short term Halifax will have less rain in the summer and potentially more wildfires.

There have already been serious wildfires in the Spryfield and Porter's Lake areas.  Flames destroyed a number of homes and others had close calls in recent years.

The report suggests homeowners who border wooded areas clear any deadwood, remove tree branches that hang over the house or garage and store firewood away from buildings.

Purcell’s Cove Road homeowner Linda MacDonald said some of the recommendations are common sense, but a good reminder.

"I have felt fairly secure because it looks green and that could be deceptive," she said.

The study goes to Halifax's environment committee on Thursday.

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