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.

Just Posted

Women’s marches underway in Canadian cities, a year after Trump inauguration

Women are gathering in dozens of communities across the country today to… Continue reading

Red Deer councillor balks at city getting stuck with more funding responsibilities

Volunteer Central seeks municipal funding after being cut off by government

Olds chicken barn burns to the ground, no livestock harmed

More than 100,000 chickens were saved as fire crews prevent the blaze from spreading

Bear video meant to promote conservation: zoo owner

Discovery Wildlife Park says it will look at other ways to promote its conservation message

Red Deer’s Soundhouse closing its doors on Record Store Day

The owners of The Soundhouse want to shut down their store on… Continue reading

WATCH: Property taxes in Red Deer will go up 2.02 per cent in 2018

City council passes a “tough” budget that maintains most service levels

In photos: Get ready for Western Canadian Championships

Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Championships and Peavey Mart Alberta Cup 5/6 start… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer city council debates cost-savings versus quality of life

Majority of councillors decide certain services are worth preserving

Got milk? Highway reopened near Millet

A southbound truck hauling milk and cartons collided with a bridge

Stettler’s newest residents overcame fear, bloodshed to come here

Daniel Kwizera, Diane Mukasine and kids now permanent residents

Giddy up: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

The CFR is expected to bring $20-30 million annually to Red Deer and region

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag at Pyeongchang Olympics

Not since Kurt Browning at the 1994 Lillehammer Games has a figure… Continue reading

Beer Canada calls on feds to axe increasing beer tax as consumption trends down

OTTAWA — A trade association for Canada’s beer industry wants the federal… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month