A 'very difficult fight' is almost over: Crews monitor hotspots in Hay River dump fire

As firefighters continue to fight Hay River’s dump fire, an emergency protection order on the town is expiring today and it won’t be renewed.

Hay River emergency protection order expires Saturday, no plans to renew

Firefighters tackle hotspots in the Hay River dump fire on March 22. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

As firefighters continue to fight Hay River's dump fire, an emergency protection order on the town is expiring today and it won't be renewed.

That's according to Hay River Deputy Mayor Robert Bouchard.

"We're trying to get some of the last little fire put out," he said.

"The fire chief is just planning to do the rest of the fight with our local crew here."

Firefighters from Fort Smith and Yellowknife helped fight the blaze, which ran more than seven metres underground. The Yellowknife contingent left the community on Friday.

Bouchard said there were some tense moments at the very beginning of the fire, which started March 3 and flared up on the evening of March 9.

A look at the Hay River, N.W.T., landfill fire on March 11. The fire had flared up two nights before. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

"There's lots of construction material that was there, some wood pellets, stuff that burns really well so we were concerned with that," said Bouchard.

"The size of the fire was really daunting. It was very difficult to fight."

Bouchard said at the outset, pumper trucks simply sprayed the fire but now firefighters are on the ground spraying water on the hot spots with hoses.

To contain the fire in the dump, crews essentially built a "fire pit" around the blaze, and now crews are working on containing hotspots that remain along that pit's walls.

Crews are also using excavators to dig out material and soak it down, according to Bouchard. Then they take that material to a different area, let it cool down, and soak it some more.

"We've been doing that since day one of the fire, so it's been a big process," he said.

"They've chewed up a lot of land."

'Very helpful' volunteers

The fire crew has been made up mostly of volunteers, said Bouchard, including some territorial government employees and others from private businesses.

He said he understands it's a busy time of year with fiscal year-end and winter road construction.

"Employers and departments have been very helpful to lend some of their employees to us," said Bouchard.

He added there are also people on site testing runoff from the water used to fight the fire, to make sure any contamination doesn't spread.

Firefighters are continuing to fight the fire 24/7 over the weekend, but Bouchard said he's waiting to see what's needed after that.

Written by Randi Beers, based from an interview by Kirsten Murphy