Dump fire might cost Hay River about $400,000

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The now extinuished fire at the landfill site will be costly for the Town of Hay River. The expenses - like for this excavator working on the almost-extinguished fire on March 22 - may approach $400,000. NNSL file photo
The now extinuished fire at the landfill site will be costly for the Town of Hay River. The expenses – like for this excavator working on the almost-extinguished fire on March 22 – may approach $400,000.
NNSL file photo

The fire at the Hay River landfill site is out, but now comes the search for how to pay for the almost month-long battle to put out the blaze.

The fire, which was first spotted on March 3, was considered out as of March 28.

At the March 25 meeting of town council, Judy Goucher, the town’s senior administrative officer (SAO), provided some estimates of the cost of the firefighting efforts.

“Just to let you know, our running total is closing in on $350,000,” she told council. “I don’t have daily reports for the last couple of days from two of our contractors that are on site. So $400,000, perhaps something north of that, could be what we’re looking at.”

The costs include such things as excavators, water trucks and activity allowances for firefighters.

Goucher noted that, because the town declared a state of emergency, the territorial government provided some resources.

“We’re not anticipating bills for those, other than if we use any of their items that were consumable,” she said.

Goucher could not offer any obvious way that the expenses of the dump fire could be covered by the town.

“We are pursuing all avenues, I would say, to recover those costs,” she told council, noting the town’s insurance company has been contacted. “That’s not looking promising.”

The SAO also noted the town will be submitting a request to the GNWT under its disaster assistance policy.

“Not likely that we will qualify under the federal disaster assistance program,” she said. “The Iqaluit landfill fire that lasted two years did not. So our three-week fire is unlikely to. But that’s a good thing because it was contained. But we are going to have to manage the financial fallout from this event, as well.”

If the town is unable to find external sources to help pay for the firefighting effort, it will impact the town’s 2019 budget.

On March 29, Deputy-Mayor Robert Bouchard, the town’s spokesperson on the landfill fire, said it was considered out the day before.

“I think they’ve got it done,” he said. “They turned the pumps off yesterday (March 28) and now they’re continuing to have some equipment working in the area, but we’re just finishing up cleaning here.”

Bouchard said it was hoped that the clean-up would be completed by the end of this past weekend, or early this week.

The clean-up involves clearing debris and leveling things off.

“We’re definitely pleased that it’s over,” said Bouchard.

It has been a long battle for firefighters and others, he noted. “Everybody will be happy to get back to a normal routine.”

It is still unknown what caused the fire.

“I don’t think we’ll ever know for sure,” said Bouchard.

Smoke from an underground fire was first noticed on March 3 and the firefighting effort began. However, the fire flared up above ground on March 9, occasionally sending smoke over the community.

The fire burned about three acres in the eastern corner of the dump, where there is predominantly household garbage and construction material.

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