Nova Scotia

Annapolis Valley landfill fire spews thick smoke and toxic fumes

About 70 firefighters from seven departments were trying to extinguish an underground fire of burning garbage Friday at Arlington Heights C&D Landfill near Bridgetown, N.S.

Arlington Heights C&D Landfill near Bridgetown burning since about 7 a.m.

The fire at Arlington Heights C&D Landfill near Bridgetown, N.S., started around 7 a.m. (Cassie Williams/CBC)

A major underground fire was burning Friday at a construction and demolition debris site in Nova Scotia's Annapolis County.

The Arlington Heights C&D Landfill near Bridgetown started burning around 7 a.m., but was considered under control by mid-afternoon.

Stephen Wade, chief of the Port Lorne and district fire department, said flames were no longer shooting above ground but the fire continued to burn 3½ metres underground. 

Creosote lumber, vinyl siding and other buried construction debris were on fire, he said.

About 70 firefighters from eight fire halls were trying to put the fire out and expected to be on scene all day and possibly into the night.

Stephen Wade, chief of the Port Lorne and district fire department, seen here on scene at the Arlington Heights C&D Landfill. (Stephen Wade)

Wade said firefighters were attacking an area measuring 14 square metres and more than six metres deep.

"As we pull the debris up, we're smearing it on the ground and wetting it, and then moving it out of the way. And we're just continuing to chase the hotspot underground."

He described airborne contaminants in the smoke as "quite toxic" but said the wind was thankfully blowing it away from the scene.

"We've been quite lucky," he said. 

At one point, the ridge of white, musty-smelling smoke was about 15 metres wide. 

"It's not like a brush fire smoke, you can tell it's garbage burning," said Wade. "It's quite a noxious smell."

He said the risk to the public was minimal because the nearest home is about a kilometre away.

Wade could not say when the fire might be totally out. 

"I don't know if we dig six more feet [if] we'll have it, or [if] we're going to have to go 60 more feet," he said.

Waterville and district's Big Flow pumper is a large-capacity pumper designed by firefighters. (Waterville and District Fire Department)

Wade was also dealing with the challenge of keeping the trucks fuelled up and giving the crew some rest.

"Because of the type of fire, we need all hands on deck," said firefighter Carolyn Banks.

A lot of equipment was brought in: nine tankers, three engines, two excavators, a bulldozer, a front-end loader and a custom, large-capacity water pumper from the Waterville and district fire department.

Department spokesperson Kevin Ernest said the pumper filled 20 tankers to haul water to the scene.

No injuries were reported.

A spokesperson for Nova Scotia's Department of Environment said two inspectors were on site.

About the Author

Elizabeth Chiu is a reporter in Nova Scotia and hosts Atlantic Tonight on Saturdays at 7 p.m., 7:30 p.m. in Newfoundland. If you have a story idea for her, contact her at elizabeth.chiu@cbc.ca.