Workers hose down material as it is removed from the smouldering dump.

Red Deer firefighters battle Iqaluit dump fire

Hellfire Suppression Services Inc. is known for its expertise in oilfield firefighting, but the Rocky Mountain House company has also developed a reputation for handling problem fires outside the oilpatch.

Hellfire Suppression Services Inc. is known for its expertise in oilfield firefighting, but the Rocky Mountain House company has also developed a reputation for handling problem fires outside the oilpatch.

In 2012 it extinguished a blaze in a mountain of scrap at Calgary Metal Recycling; early this year it doused a fire at the Westar Landfill near Medicine Hat; and now a half-dozen Hellfire employees are tackling a smouldering community dump at Iqaluit, Nunavut.

“We’ve been doing more and more landfill, storage-pile-type fires,” said Ryan Stambaugh, senior well control fire specialist with Hellfire. “They’re happening more and more, so we’ve taken more of an interest in it and developed some specialized tools and different things.

“We’re able to deal with stuff that people say should not be dealt with.”

The Iqaluit fire has been burning since spring — too deep for fire hoses to reach, and in a pile of garbage too unstable for backhoes and other heavy equipment to safely get at. City officials had planned to let it burn out, but changed their minds after smoke forced the closure of schools and prompted health warnings.

“These guys actually contacted us back in June when this was happening and asked us to see what we could put together to extinguish this fire for them,” said Stambaugh, who arrived with his crew on Aug. 24.

Also called in was Global Forensics Inc., a Red Deer company that specializes in hazardous materials response and emergency planning. It’s acting as site manager, overseeing logistics and safety, and ensuring proper reporting to the various levels of government.

“This is the first time we’ve been utilized this way, so this is a new area for us,” said Mike Noblett, who spent 32 years with the Calgary fire department and is now Global Forensics’ explosion and fire analyst.

He’s been on the scene since Aug. 27.

An “overhaul process” is being used to root out and extinguish the fire, said Stambaugh. The contents of the dump are being removed section by section, with each wetted down, stirred up and restacked.

“It’s kind of like putting out a giant campfire,” he said. “It definitely takes time. You cannot leave anything unturned.”

“There is no easy formula on something like this,” added Noblett. “We had a pile of garbage about the size of a Canadian football field — at one end about 50 feet (15 metres) high and on the other end about 10 feet (three metres) high.”

He estimated that the task of systematically working through the dump’s contents is about 60 per cent complete.

“It’s a monumental job for the guys doing the work.”

Alternatives had been proposed, including injecting carbon dioxide or a fire retardant foam into the burning pile. But the overhaul process was chosen as the only way to ensure the fire was extinguished.

Originally, salt water from nearby Frobisher Bay was going to be used.

“We recognized right away that it would be 100 times harder on the equipment and on the manpower,” said Noblett, adding that the resulting odour would also be worse.

So the decision was made to pump fresh water from a creek four km away. Two high-volume portable fire pumps were brought in and Hellfire arranged for two workers from RapidFire & Rescue Inc., a Red Deer company that it works with, to help with the pumping.

The isolated location of Iqaluit, which is north of the Arctic circle on Baffin Island, has been a challenge, said Noblett.

“Basically, anything that’s needed has to be flown in.”

“We have a total of about 65,000 pounds (29,500 kg) of equipment that was flown in,” said Stambaugh.

Despite working 13 to 14 hours a day, the Albertans have enjoyed the hospitality of the city’s residents, even receiving invitations to dinners. And their efforts have captured national media attention.

“Discovery Channel has actually been in contact with us a couple different times, looking at doing a special piece on the company,” said Stambaugh.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

Red Deer teacher contracts condemning same-sex relationships ‘not acceptable’

Eggen says Red Deer Catholic Schools assured him they no longer have employees sign the form

Second-degree murder trial on hold until January

Jury not back until Jan. 7 for 2015 stabbing death trial while lawyers argue evidence issues

Hospitalizations jump in Red Deer due to opioid poisonings

Small city hospitals impacted more by opioid crisis

Stray dog spotted in one Red Deer neighbourhood, could be missing for 1 year

Red Deerians asked not to feed this german shepard

Witnesses describe scene of fatal 2016 collision

Delburne man on trial for manslaughter after being accused of causing collision

WATCH: CP Holiday Train rolls into Lacombe

Kelly Prescott performed for hundreds of Central Albertans

Trump comments upend U.S. approach to Huawei, trade talks

WASHINGTON — The United States and China have taken pains this week… Continue reading

WATCH: CP Holiday Train rolls into Lacombe

Kelly Prescott performed for hundreds of Central Albertans

Dumba scores twice, Wild rout Canadiens 7-1

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Reeling and banged up, the Minnesota Wild were… Continue reading

Coach Hunter wants up-tempo Team Canada as world junior squad hits ice

COLWOOD, B.C. — Team Canada coach Tim Hunter says the team that… Continue reading

Study finds female-led films outperform male ones

NEW YORK — A study organized by Time’s Up, the organization formed… Continue reading

Price Is Right contestant wins winter trip to Winnipeg, Churchill

WINNIPEG — Who wants to visit Winnipeg in the dead of winter?… Continue reading

CBC Gem streaming service to launch exclusive content, partners with Wattpad

TORONTO — The CBC has launched a new streaming service featuring live… Continue reading

‘Part of the solution:’ Alberta seeks proposals to build new refinery

EDMONTON — Alberta is looking for someone to build a new oil… Continue reading

Most Read