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'Get out or be in the fire': Nova Scotians detail the moments when they fled their homes

Katherine Tarateski was only about 20 minutes away from her home, but police had already blocked off the neighbourhood.

The Nova Scotia resident had just been at a community potluck at a local park when she received the first emergency alert about the wildfires on Sunday.

Currently staying at a hotel in Halifax with family, Tarateski says she doesn't know when she will be able to return home.

Her home in the Tantallon area, a community in the western end of the Halifax Regional Municipality, is gone. Her pets, a dog and a cat, remain missing.

"I just couldn't deal with the thought that they were inside, so I just chose to believe that they are out somehow," Tarateski told CTV's Your Morning on Wednesday.

The ongoing wildfires in Nova Scotia have burned thousands of hectares across the province, destroying an estimated 200 structures in the Halifax area, including approximately 150 homes.

As of Tuesday morning, the Nova Scotia SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) said it had more than 100 animals in its care.

The organization says it is in the evacuation zone working with the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources to provide care for animals and reunite them with their families.

'IF YOU’RE BURNING ON YOUR PROPERTY THAT IS STUPID'

A province-wide ban on open fires, including in provincial parks, private campgrounds and backyard campfires, brush burning and fireworks is in effect in Nova Scotia

On Tuesday, the province also announced a series of restrictions on activities in wooded areas.

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston has urged residents to adhere to the burn ban, saying six illegal burns came in Monday night. The cause for the fires is under investigation but are likely human-caused, a Department of Natural Resources official said.

"For God's sake, stop burning. Stop flicking cigarette butts out of the car window. Just stop it. Our resources are stretched incredibly thin right now fighting existing fires," Houston said.

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage told CTV News Channel on Wednesday that the situation is "dynamic," with a change in wind potentially putting more homes, firefighters and lives at risk.

Savage also called on Nova Scotians to stay away from the evacuation area and to not burn.

"If you're burning on your property that is stupid, that is selfish and that is putting people at risk and if nothing else, it's taking attention away from the areas where we really need it," he said.

'I THOUGHT OUR HOUSE WAS GOING TO GO DOWN'

Kelly Laurin was driving back to her home in Tantallon with her fiance when they noticed smoke coming from behind a local community centre.

After getting an evacuation notice, they packed their belongings and cats in their car.

At one point, Laurin says they could see the trees in their backyard burning.

"Honestly, I was in shock, I was terrified," she told CTV's Your Morning on Wednesday.

"I thought our house was going to go down, I thought the whole street was going to go down. I didn't really know what to think other than I had to get out of there as soon as possible."

Laurin says a neighbour managed to take a picture of her home, which showed it still standing, but with some fire damage.

She considers herself "extremely lucky," especially since there were a number of sentimental items that she wasn't able to bring or forgot to take, including pictures and her father's urn.

"It was just get out or be in the fire," she said.

Mary Wolfe, who is at a hotel with her family and dog, says while she couldn't see any fire at the time, a neighbour did advise her to leave due to the developing situation.

It wasn't until she was stuck in traffic trying to get out of her subdivision that the evacuation order came in.

Soon, she says ash began to fall on the cars and that is when it became real for her.

"It looks like a really hot, hazy summer day," she told CTV's Your Morning on Tuesday.

"The sky has smoke all through it and it smells, but we're about 10 kilometres from our house, so we're about 20 kilometres from the origination of the fire. So it's not as intense as it was at home but certainly you know something's going on."

Wolfe says, with the help of group chats and her neighbours' home security cameras, she learned that her street is safe.

"We were closer than we would have liked to have been," she said. "We don't know when we're going to get back in. We're still very much in the evacuation zone."

With files from CTVNewsAtlantic.ca Digital Co-ordinator Lyndsay Armstrong

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