Nova Scotia

Kings County dump fire prompts Environment Canada air quality alert

Environment Canada has issued a special air quality statement as firefighters in Kings County continue to battle a fire at an eight-storey dump southwest of Kentville.

Fire has burned since Tuesday afternoon and will likely continue into weekend

Crews could be working into the weekend, trying to extinguish a fire at an eight-storey high dump. (CBC)

Environment Canada has issued a special air quality alert as firefighters in Kings County continue to battle a fire at an eight-storey dump southwest of Kentville.

Fire crews say the pile of construction debris could continue burning well into the weekend, despite their best attempts to put it out. 

"We're going to work at it from daylight until dark today and see what kind of progress we can make on the pile," said Jeff Martin, deputy chief of the Kentville Volunteer Fire Department. 

"We're still a good 100 feet away. It's just burning too much that we just can't get near enough to investigate it."

Fire crews say the pile of construction debris could continue burning well into the weekend, despite their best attempts to put it out. (Submitted by David Williamson)

Environment Canada said Thursday the smoke from the fire "will impact any surrounding communities based on the wind direction over the next several days."

The national weather forecaster advises those in the area with breathing difficulties to stay inside.

'We had 3 explosions'

"Individuals may experience symptoms such as increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath. Children, seniors, and those with cardiovascular or lung disease, such as asthma, are especially at risk," reads the special weather statement. 

Since the fire department can't get close to the blaze, it's almost impossible to tell exactly what in the debris pile is burning.

"We had three explosions that I witnessed, smaller ones, but I'm not sure what they were inside the pile," said Martin.

The fire department has warned residents and drivers on North River Road in Kings County to close their windows, stay inside and avoid breathing in what could be toxic smoke.

Among the items in the dump pile are wood, shingles, plastic, mattresses and carpets.

"We're being very cautious ourselves around it and stay upwind as best we can," said Martin.

The site belongs to South Mountain Construction and Debris Ltd., and is in the community of Magee Lake, about 10 kilometres southwest of Kentville.

Investigators from Nova Scotia's Environment Department and the Department of Labour are at the scene.

Firefighters using water and sand

The construction debris fire has been burning since Tuesday. (Submitted by Brian Desloges)

The fire is in a sparsely populated area. 

"It's going to be burning, I'm assuming, right into the weekend. We're going to try and get our heavy, heavy equipment in there today … and try and knock this thing down even further," said Martin.

The department plans to use a mix of water and sand to douse the fire.

"The biggest challenges on a fire like this is just keeping a steady water supply on it and getting cover, as in sand, to smother the fire out," said Martin.

Crews are using more than six kilometres of hose to get water from a nearby lake to the fire.

David Williamson took this photo Thursday morning from a Cessna aircraft about 458 metres above ground level. (David Williamson)

"We are doing two methods here, one is to douse it with water to cool the fire down, then we're going to put a cover of sand on top of it, to smother it out," Martin said.

"Every eight feet or so, we'll put a foot of sand on it."

One firefighter suffered a knee injury while working to extinguish the blaze. 

Martin said the fire department wants to be sure the fire in the debris pile is completely extinguished to avoid any flareups.

With files from Paul Palmeter and Cassie Williams

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