05/21/2012 06:03 EDT | Updated 07/21/2012 05:12 EDT

Evacuation lifted for homes near Halifax brush fire

An evacuation order for 60 homes in the Williams Lake area of Halifax has been lifted, but the fire is still burning.

The fire spread across 15 hectares between Purcells Cove and Herring Cove roads in a wooded area known as the barrens.

Fire officials are allowing people in the area to return to their homes, on the condition that they must be prepared to leave again with just 30 minutes notice. Houses along Purcells Cove Road, from Halls Road up to Oceanview Drive, were included in the evacuation.

Purcells Cove Road has reopened to traffic.

Dave Meldrum, spokesperson for Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency, said the fire is contained but not necessarily under control.

He said it doesn't appear that any homes are at risk.

Firefighters have left the scene, but they will continue to monitor the situation and watch for flare ups through the night. They plan to return in the morning to resume their work and completely extinguish the fire.

Weather improved

Meldrum said firefighters made visible improvements in the evening as the weather conditions worked in their favour.

Nearly 40 HRM firefighters were on the scene, joined by three helicopters from the Department of Natural Resources, and a number of DNR firefighters.

Billowing smoke

Police said the fire was reported at 4:15 p.m.

Large plumes of smoke could be seen throughout Halifax and across the harbour in Dartmouth.

"You can see the flames topping the tree tops every little while. Like right now you can see a whole red area and very, very black columns of smoke coming off and heading towards downtown Halifax," said Robert Young, from his home on Thornhill Drive.

The CBC's Sabrina Fabian said police were told to move fire-watchers away from Williams Lake Road, where they had gathered.

Halifax fire platoon chief Scott Shaffner said the area is difficult to access.

In an interview earlier with CBC News, Schaffner said crews were worried that the wind would push the fire towards homes on Purcells Cove Road.

The Red Cross is setting up a comfort centre for evacuees at Chocolate Lake Recreation Centre. Six people have checked in at the facility so far, but all of them have made alternate arrangements for accomodations. The Red Cross said it's prepared to help up to 200 people if necessary.

Reminder of 2009 fire

This is the same area where a brush fire destroyed several homes in 2009.

Meldrum said there are a lot of similarities between the two situations.

"Weather and wind and time of year, for sure," he said. "What's good here is we were on it early, DNR is assisting us early."

Rod Giffin's wife Louise is leaving the evacuation zone with their seven dogs. But he's staying put as long as he can to protect their home from vandals.

"The last time … they were trying to break into the houses from the back end," he told CBC News.