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Iqaluit garbage dump blaze finally out

Sept. 17, 2014, Iqaluit, Nunavut - A long-smouldering dump fire in Iqaluit, dubbed the “dumpcano,” is finally out. The smoky blaze had been burning on the south side of the Nunavut capital since May.

September 17, 2014
By The Canadian Press

The city had initially planned to let the fire burn itself out because fighting the hot and unstable pile was too dangerous.

When
the fire began, the mound was about the length of a football field and
as high as 17 metres on one side. Although no flames could be seen, the
fire deep within the garbage created heat up to 2,000 C.

But letting the fire take care of itself would have taken about three
years. And fumes had forced schools to close for several days and
prompted health warnings.

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Instead, experts were brought in and crews started fighting the fire 17 days ago.

Deputy fire chief George Seigler said the blaze was officially declared out Tuesday morning, almost two weeks ahead of schedule.

“We’ve reached the end of pile. We’ve done this literally bucket by bucket and quenching it,” he said.

“We’re down to dirt.”

Mike Noblett with Global Forensics Inc. out of Red Deer, Alta., acted as site manager during the fire fight.

He
described how excavators first dug out a pond near the burning pile and
hoses stretching to a nearby creek filled it with water. Machines next
removed sections of the hot garbage and dunked them several times into a
pond of water.

The cooled garbage was then dumped into a flatter
and shorter pile. Noblett said workers will spend the next week
reshaping it into a new pile, making sure it’s sloped at an angle that
will hopefully keep wind from pushing inside.

“Although we’ve got
this fire out, there is a natural heating process because of the
breakdown of the material. But if we keep the wind out of there, it
keeps that temperature down and it won’t overheat again.”

Seigler said workers will monitor and take daily temperature readings of the stack until spring.

Landfill staff have already received new training on how to properly separate combustibles from incoming trash, said Noblett.

“It’ll
be next to get the people of Iqaluit to co-operate with the operators
of the landfill and, at a minimum, tell them what they’re bringing to
the dump,” he said.

“If they’ve got batteries, tell them they’ve got batteries. If they’ve got a propane tank, don’t hide it.”

The
cost of putting out the fire was estimated at $2.3-million, but Noblett
believes the bill will be less since it didn’t take as long as expected
to put it out.

The city wants to build a modern landfill since the dump, built in 1995, was intended to be used for only five years.

There have been three other fires at this dump since mid-December. In 2010, one blaze took six weeks to snuff out.


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