Cause of Iqaluit’s dump fire unknown

‘It could’ve been anything that was put into the landfill,’ says fire chief

Iqaluit Fire Chief Steve McGean said he’s thankful the city’s emergency responders were able to get together and put out a 10-hour-long fire at Iqaluit’s dump on Wednesday. (Photo by David Venn)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Emergency responders spent 10 hours rolling out and then hosing down mounds of garbage — used diapers, clothes, mattresses — to extinguish Iqaluit’s latest dump fire Wednesday.

The fire involved an area about 10 metres by 10 metres, but the emergency responders flattened and sprayed a 30-metre by 50-metre perimeter to make sure they didn’t miss any hot spots, said fire Chief Steve McGean.

“We went and got to basically the seat of the fire, where the fire would’ve started, to make sure everything was nice and saturated and that there’s going to be no more reflares,” McGean said in an interview Thursday, a day after his department fought the nearly 10-hour blaze.

Firefighters were called out early in the morning after the city received reports of a blaze at the dump Wednesday at around 2 a.m.

City staff from public works and municipal enforcement joined them, and the airport lent a mobile command post for the response team to use to stay warm.

Nunavut Excavating joined the cause with an excavator, scooping up piles of garbage and spreading it out on the ground so firefighters could spray it with water, McGean said.

Once they spread a few piles of garbage out with the excavator, they ran over it with a bulldozer and sprayed it some more, he said.

The fire department treated it as another department would a forest fire — firefighters tried to separate what was fueling the fire from the actual fire itself until they got to its root at about three metres deep.

The cause of the fire is unknown, McGean said, and it will probably stay that way.

“It was a little bit deep-seated, we’ll have no way of truly pinpointing the exact cause of it,” he said. “It could’ve been anything that was put into the landfill.”

There have been several fires at the dump over the past 10 years, including 2014’s so-called “dumpcano,” which lasted throughout the summer.

McGean said he could not speculate on what has caused each individual fire or the one Wednesday, but that there may be basic science to it.

“As we know, when things compost, heat gets thrown off, and if there’s anything close to that heat that can ignite … it can flare up at any given time,” he said.

The City of Iqaluit is currently building a new dump west of the Upper Plateau, and McGean said there will be a sorting system in place that should help fireproof the dump.

He commended the response team for putting out the blaze in less than 10 hours.

There was a fire watch overnight Wednesday to look for flare-ups, and Thursday afternoon McGean was headed back out to inspect the area one more time.

“If I don’t see anything out there today, I could release the scene … and normal procedures [can continue] as per every regular day,” he said.

On Thursday afternoon, the city issued a public service announcement to say normal activities at the landfill are scheduled to resume on Saturday.

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(11) Comments:

  1. Posted by Cardboard on

    To the city councillors reading this:

    Can you please ask the SAO/Mayor if cardboard is being separated from the rest of the garbage at the landfill. And if they say that they are separating, please ask them how this can be done if all the garbage bags (black and blue) are being thrown in the same garbage truck.

    Thank you

    • Posted by Cardboard on

      Also, please point out that the City’s website states that we must separate our cardboard:
      “…we ask that residents separate all uncoated cardboard from their household waste by tying it separately, or placing it in a clear blue bag. These will be collected separately from regular waste. Separation helps the with efficient collection. The City has experienced an increased volume of cardboard in recent years. As such, cardboard is managed by burning it in a designated burn box, storing it until it can be safely burned and depositing it in the landfill.”

      • Posted by UnbeleivableIdiotsHere on

        Can You Also Tell The Mayor That its Real Mayo ?
        and Tell Him to Seperate The White Clothes From The Colours Clothes in The Laudry ? you Guys Are Unbeleivable lol

  2. Posted by John K on

    Dumps naturally get hot. When they’re full to the brim with unrecycled paper products they can spontaneously ignite.

  3. Posted by Iqaluitmiuta on

    I kno wut started it card board I kno I throw card board in the trash fire chief don’t know city needs a better separation system

    • Posted by Wheiner on

      if you guys and girls had it your way you would even push it to force the mayor to Regulate and tell us what colours of undies to put on each day of the week, thats how freedoom is slowly taken away, by people like you guys who start asking for pesky new laws and new Regulation and this and that and can’t never ever stop until there’s so much laws and regulation that we cant live free anymore cause everything is control all because of weiner and complainers, soon its gonna say, its illegal to put garbage’s in garbage’s for the Sake of the whale’s and the environment, imagine that

      • Posted by Realistic on

        No we just want a mayor to stop fking up so bad and just do the right things, not asking for too much.

  4. Posted by Capital City on

    I think most of us know why it caught on fire, its a dump! no recycling or separating dangerous materials. All kinds of chemicals mixing inside that dump, what a embarrassment as a capital when we can’t even have a proper landfill with recycling programs and incinerators.
    Now look at what the city’s plans are for the new dump up the road, same as this current dump, a huge environmental risk, potential fires and garbage flying everywhere.
    I think we can do much better.

  5. Posted by Creeped out on

    Strange picture

  6. Posted by Corrugated Lives Matter on

    It’s the card board bro!

  7. Posted by Guess who’s bizzack? on

    Dumpcano mofos

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