NEWS
09/16/2014 01:57 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 00:53 EDT

Smoke clears as crews quench long-smouldering 'dumpcano' garbage fire in Iqaluit

IQALUIT, Nunavut - A long-smouldering dump fire in Iqaluit, dubbed the "dumpcano," is finally out.

The smoky blaze had been burning on the south side of the Nunavut capital since May.

The city had initially planned to let the fire burn itself out because fighting the hot and unstable pile was too dangerous.

When the fire began, the mound was about the length of a football field and as high as 17 metres on one side. Although no flames could be seen, the fire deep within the garbage created heat up to 2,000 C.

But letting the fire take care of itself would have taken about three years. And fumes had forced schools to close for several days and prompted health warnings.

Instead, experts were brought in and crews started fighting the fire 17 days ago.

Deputy fire chief George Seigler said the blaze was officially declared out Tuesday morning, almost two weeks ahead of schedule.

"We've reached the end of pile. We've done this literally bucket by bucket and quenching it," he said.

"We're down to dirt."

Mike Noblett with Global Forensics Inc. out of Red Deer, Alta., acted as site manager during the fire fight.

He described how excavators first dug out a pond near the burning pile and hoses stretching to a nearby creek filled it with water. Machines next removed sections of the hot garbage and dunked them several times into a pond of water.

The cooled garbage was then dumped into a flatter and shorter pile. Noblett said workers will spend the next week reshaping it into a new pile, making sure it's sloped at an angle that will hopefully keep wind from pushing inside.

"Although we've got this fire out, there is a natural heating process because of the breakdown of the material. But if we keep the wind out of there, it keeps that temperature down and it won't overheat again."

Seigler said workers will monitor and take daily temperature readings of the stack until spring.

Landfill staff have already received new training on how to properly separate combustibles from incoming trash, said Noblett.

"It'll be next to get the people of Iqaluit to co-operate with the operators of the landfill and, at a minimum, tell them what they're bringing to the dump," he said.

"If they've got batteries, tell them they've got batteries. If they've got a propane tank, don't hide it."

The cost of putting out the fire was estimated at $2.3 million, but Noblett believes the bill will be less since it didn't take as long as expected to put it out.

The city wants to build a modern landfill since the dump, built in 1995, was intended to be used for only five years.

There have been three other fires at this dump since mid-December. In 2010, one blaze took six weeks to snuff out.

— By Chris Purdy in Edmonton