'Difficult' Edmonton woodpile fire now contained
Precautionary air quality advisory remains in effect
A woodpile fire that started Tuesday at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre has been contained, a city official said Wednesday.
Late Tuesday, Alberta Health Services issued a precautionary air quality advisory for the Edmonton area. Many people, especially in northeast Edmonton, had been wondering why they were smelling wood smoke.
Chris Ward, the city's manager of utility services, said the fire started just before noon on Tuesday in a "substantial pile" of wood at the waste management facility, 250 Aurum Rd NE.
"It was what we called white wood," Ward said. "It is wood that has not been treated or painted, so it is uncontaminated wood."
The wood was in an area where people drop items off for disposal, but Ward said as soon as the fire started public access was shut off.
The fire is now contained but crews are still on scene, Ward said.
"We are still working with the fire department, pieces are still smoldering and we are spreading it around and applying water."
The air quality advisory says residents and visitors to the city should be aware of air conditions and watch for any potential health problems caused by smoke.
AHS says if smoke conditions become severe, even healthy people may experience temporary irritation of eyes and throat, and possibly shortness of breath.
The advisory suggests people limit their physical activities outdoors and if possible, stay indoors with windows, door and air vents closed.
'Very difficult to fight'
Ward said the fire took a "fair amount" of effort Tuesday night and Wednesday morning to bring under control.
Fire Capt.Greg Holubowich said the fire was in an area 60 metres wide and 18 metres deep — an area a little larger than two Olympic swimming pools laid side by side.
"If there's some kind of treated wood that may be in the pile there's a higher risk of more carcinogens, and the off-gassing is much more dangerous than if it was clean wood," said Holubowich.
"This type of fire's very difficult to fight." He said water supply is always a concern. Heavy equipment has to be brought in to "turn up the pile" so that water can be sprayed on it.
This type of fire's very difficult to fight.- Greg Holubowich
Ward said responders near the fire had to wear masks but those farther away were able to fight without protective gear.
"There was no concern of it spreading to other buildings or structures and in terms of employees and staff, there was no impact to employees, no physical concerns at all.
"We will continue with AHS to monitor the air quality to ensure that staff have all the protective equipment that they need."
With files from the Canadian Press