British Columbia

Major fire at scrapyard near Nanaimo, B.C., prompts water quality warning

About 50 firefighters from several different departments are battling a major blaze at an industrial lot near Ladysmith, B.C., immediately south of the Nanaimo Airport.

Scrapyard blaze sends plumes of toxic black smoke into the air, prompting groundwater contamination concerns

Crews first responded to the fire at the steel recycling yard on Simpson Road near Cassidy on Thursday morning. (Kendall Hanson/Chek News)

About 50 firefighters from eight different departments are battling a blaze at an industrial lot near Ladysmith, B.C., immediately south of the Nanaimo Airport.

However, the Cowichan Valley Regional District said the fire is now contained as wind has died down. 

Crews responded to the fire on Thursday morning at a scrapyard owned by Schnitzer Steel Canada in Cassidy, just off the Trans-Canada Highway.

At its height, more than 70 firefighters were involved.

According to Kris Schumacher, manager of communications and engagement for the regional district, scrap metal and a large pile of tires was ignited by the flames, prompting concern over groundwater contamination, which he said is "highly likely."

"I would encourage people not to use their water for any circumstances right now until we have a better sense of the potential contamination," said Schumacher.

The B.C. Wildfire Service has joined firefighters from several local departments. (David J.C. Davies)

He expects the Vancouver Island Health Authority to issue a boil-water order for the surrounding area soon.

People nearby have also been asked to avoid the area due to poor air quality. The smoke billowing from the industrial lot is considered toxic, according to Schumacher.

Residents of North Oyster, Cedar and the Town of Ladysmith have been encouraged to conserve water while crews fight the fire.

"Things are looking much better than they were," Schumacher said late Thursday afternoon. "The wind is certainly co-operating with us right now."

The B.C. Wildfire Service remains on the scene. Representatives from several government ministries, including the Ministry of Environment, are also on site, according to Schumacher.

With files from All Points West


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