Iqaluit dump fire operation ahead of schedule

Crews are at work on the hottest and most dangerous part of Iqaluit’s 3-month-old dump fire, and they say the operation is ahead of schedule, producing less smoke and particulates than expected, and could come in under budget.

Firefighting operation producing less smoke and particulates than expected

Smoke pours from Iqaluit's dump fire as the operation to put it out begins. At a Sept. 9 city council meeting, Mike Noblett of Global Forensics said the operation was 60 per cent complete, and was producing less smoke and particulates than expected. (Vince Robinet/CBC)

As crews at Iqaluit's dump work on the hottest and most dangerous part of the fire, the site manager says things are now going ahead of schedule.

“Today was a pretty important day for us,” Mike Noblett, the site manager who works with Global Forensics, told a city council meeting last night.

“The firefighters on scene were able to reach the top of the pile at the deepest end,” he said.

Crews began work at the smaller end of the pile 11 days ago and Noblett says the operation is already 60 per cent complete.

"This is our slow time," Noblett tells CBC, because of "the height and the heat of the pile. It just takes longer to make sure that as we do tear it apart it is fully extinguished before we move on."​

There’s more good news: according to air monitoring tests, hardly any smoke or particulates have left the site since firefighting began.

Noblett says that's due in part to the water flow available from a nearby creek.

On average, 1000 gallons of water a minute are flowing on to the site. Noblett says that’s about the equivalent of going through five water truck loads every five minutes.

Crews have been working with the wind and trying to keep the smoke at the site by spraying it with water. Over the weekend, Noblett says the road leading to the causeway had to be closed for an hour.

Now the area is open to hunters and boaters, but the city has encouraged people to stay away from the landfill site as much as they can.

Iqaluit’s fire chief, Luc Grandmaison, had estimated the firefighting operation would cost over $3 million.

In July, city council approved spending up to $2.6 million to fight the fire and the city has said that if firefighting efforts eventually cost more, council will consider taking additional funds out of the city's unrestricted reserves.

Fighting the fire has cost $1.1 million since May.

If the fire is out before the Sept. 30 deadline, Noblett says the final cost could be lower than expected.