Calgary fire crews told Global News just before noon Saturday that a “stubborn” fire that had burned overnight at ECCO Recycling plant is now under control.
Fire crews were called just after 8 p.m. Friday to the southeast community of Quarry Park and fought the blaze into Saturday.
“The fire quickly grew in size and volume, and fire crews were forced to intervene with a remote water supply and hose streams,” according to a Calgary fire department press release. “Water supply was a challenge for teams as the nearest hydrant was nearly one kilometre from the fire.”
According to Calgary fire, “the contents of the landfill are noted as construction waste and dry fill.”
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There was also an incredibly close call for one of the landfill staff.
“A large bulldozer being utilized by landfill staff to extinguish the fire suffered a mechanical failure then was quickly overcome by the fire,” according to the Calgary fire department. “The operator was able to exit the machine unharmed and retreated to safety.”
Calgary Police, CP Rail (which has a site bordering the plant) and Alberta Environment also attended the scene to assist.
Battalion Chief Paul Frederick said Saturday afternoon that while the fire is under control, it could take some time to fully extinguish the flames.
“It’s been under control for a while. It’s just going to take a significant amount of time to get to the seat of the fire to completely extinguish it,” he said.
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“Anytime you get a fire in a landfill, it’s deep-seated and it’s very difficult to extinguish without heavy equipment and lots of water.
“Deep-seated in terms of that it’s six or eight or 10 feet deep into the earth and it’s a mixture of all kinds of construction materials that are smouldering.”
Fighting the blaze has been hours and tens of people in the making, and the efforts are still ongoing.
“Right now we have 25 people here and about 12 pieces of apparatus,” Frederick said. “Through the night that’s been upwards of 30 to 40 people.”
Frederick added that fires have broken out on different landfills over the years, but if they’re not immediately contained then they can turn into a much bigger issue, like the one seen in Calgary, due to the amount of material in the area.
“I think the biggest problem is that if you’re unable to get them while they are small they can expand to the scale that this one is now, and it becomes difficult for us to put out. It takes a considerable amount of time,” Frederick said.
“The landfill itself is basically a mountain of trash that’s been buried. That trash has ignited and in places that fire is six or eight feet deep into the earth.”
In a statement to Global News Saturday, Jason Doering, president of the DouglasQuarry Community Association, said he has full confidence the recycling plant’s future operations will not be in jeopardy from this fire.
“We have no concerns with ECCO’s operations and are confident they will responsibly remediate the impacts of the fire, conduct a thorough root cause analysis and take steps to prevent similar incidents in the future, to the extent the root cause was within their control,” Doering said.
Environment Canada issued a special air quality statement for the City of Calgary shortly after 8 a.m., which later ended just after 1 p.m., but that doesn’t mean Calgarians won’t still be smelling the effects of the fire as the afternoon wears on.
“This is exactly what you would expect coming off of a landfill site,” Frederick said. “It’s not a very pleasant odour and certainly anybody that’s experiencing any sort of breathing difficulties or issues with that should be contacting 911.”
Fire crews are expected to remain on scene for much of the day.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation but no injuries have been reported.
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