Whitehorse landfill fire contained and buried

A fire at the Whitheorse landfill has been buried under a metre of soil and is considered contained. Crews will continue to monitor the zone for any flare-ups.

Crews have been using 9 tankers in rotation to douse blaze

Peter O'Blenes, (centre) director of infrastructure and operations for the City of Whitehorse, thanked staff and volunteers for their work around the clock. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

A fire at the Whitehorse landfill has been covered with earth, though it's still burning under the surface. 

Representatives from Yukon emergency response organizations provided an update to the press today.

Peter O'Blenes, director of infrastructure and operations for the City of Whitehorse, said the burial marks significant progress.

"I am happy to report the fire has presently been contained," he said. "We should not really be seeing any more smoke or anything like that. It has not been extinguished yet, it has been contained, we have a layer of soil over it."

The fire began Wednesday and flared up again Saturday morning producing large plumes of smoke

 "It has not been extinguished yet, it has been contained, we have a layer of soil over it."- Peter O'Blenes, City of Whitehorse Director of Infrastructure and Operations

Since then, nine tankers have been working in rotation 24 hours a day dousing the zone with water.  

Professional and volunteer firefighters as well as other government workers and private contractors have been working 24 hours a day in shifts of 25 people at a time. 

O'Blenes said he wants to thank Yukon government staff, city staff and "volunteers from surrounding communities who stepped up and helped us out. This was a huge success," he said today.

An aerial photograph shows the burning zone which has now been contained and buried. (Yukon Government)

Fire buried under a metre of earth

Yukon's Emergency Measures Organization has been helping to co-ordinate the response at the request of the City of Whitehorse.  

Diarmuid O'Donovan, director of the Yukon Emergency Measures Organization, says this includes the hiring of private companies to move earth using dump trucks and excavators.  

So far there's no word on the cost of fighting the fire.

The burning zone has now been covered with about a metre of soil.   

O'Blenes says there's no word yet on the cause. 

He says the fire appears to be centred among construction debris which include remnants of FH Collins, a high school demolished in Whitehorse in 2016. 

Such waste can spontaneously combust for a variety of reasons, said O'Blenes.

"It's construction and demolition waste. It's timber, it's drywall, it's things like that," he said. 

Hazardous waste zone did not catch fire

O'Blenes said there were some concerns about toxic fumes as there would be in any structural fire. 

However a section of the landfill used for storing hazardous waste — such as old paints and electronics — did not catch fire.

O'Blenes added the blaze is no longer emitting any toxins, though people may see clouds of steam due to the heat and wet soil.  

The last fire at the Whitehorse landfill was more than a year ago. O'Blenes says this is not believed to have been a remnant of a previous fire though "it could have been ignited a while ago."

The next step will be for crews to drill holes and monitor the fire's output of carbon monoxide for clues as to what is happening underground.

"If it's no threat and not going to branch out, we'll probably just let it smolder and over time it will probably just extinguish itself once all the fuel is gone, or there's no oxygen," said O'Blenes.


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