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Homes near landfill fire still on evacuation alert

It was a long night for crews battling the Vernon landfill fire.
Image Credit: Paul Cousins
August 20, 2013 - 7:44 AM

UPDATE: 7 a.m. August 20

It was a long night for firefighters, and the work isn't done yet. The fire information officer for the City of Vernon says crews battled flames and hot spots all night.

"Right now it's under control, but it's going to burn for days," Courtenay Pitcher says. "There's still a good fire up there. The goal now is to keep it contained."

Hot and windy weather mean we're not out of the woods yet, and residents on Clerke Road remain on evacuation alert, Pitcher says.

"If the wind kicks up today, that's the big concern," Pitcher says. "It's a lot of hard work for firefighters working on spot fires in the black area where the ground has already burned."

The city is hoping to get more assistance from the Wildfire Management Branch today, as well as some air support. There's another fire near Osoyoos that is also sucking resources.

"We don't know if we're going to get any help today," Pitcher says.


UPDATE: 9 p.m. August 19

Firefighters remain on scene battling a large blaze at the Vernon landfill off Birnie Road.

"There's still a lot of open flame on the north side of the landfill, and a few spot fires," deputy fire chief Jack Blair says. "We're hitting it hard, and we're making headway."

Blair says large flames from a burning pile of wood are covering about half a hectare, while sparks are flying out over a space of ten hectares. Ground crews are focussing on three main hot spots right now. Helicopters were called off at nightfall.

Residents on nearby Clerke Road have been notified by police to be ready to leave if they are put on evacuation notice.

"Anything could happen. I'd be prepared to evacuate if need be," Blair says.

Crews will remain on scene overnight, and residents will be alerted by police if they need to evacuate.

The Greater Vernon Landfill will be closed to customers until further notice.

The Vernon landfill fire as seen from College Way near Okanagan College's Vernon campus.
The Vernon landfill fire as seen from College Way near Okanagan College's Vernon campus.

Flames rise after a wood grinder malfunctioned at the Vernon landfill and sparked a large fire which has spread to nearby grass.
Flames rise after a wood grinder malfunctioned at the Vernon landfill and sparked a large fire which has spread to nearby grass.


VERNON - Smoke and flames continue to rise as firefighters battle a blaze at the Vernon landfill.

Deputy fire chief Jack Blair says the fire started around 4:30 p.m. when a wood grinder malfunctioned, caught fire, and sent a spew of fiery materials onto nearby wood piles, and then onto the dry grasslands around the landfill. The operator of the machine escaped from the fire, and Blair says no one else was harmed.

"It expanded quite quickly in the windy conditions," Blair says of the 0.5 ha fire.

There are currently 50 firefighters on the ground, including some from the Wildfire Management Branch. Five fire engines are also on scene. Blair hopes to get a few water bombers in shortly as well.

"There's another fire east of Osoyoos," Blair says. "Our resources here have been stretched thin."

There are no homes or structures in the immediate vicinity, but the fire department is contemplating an evacuation of homes on Clerk Road if the fire progresses.

"We are very concerned about it spreading," Blair says. 

Between the piles of wood and the dry organic material in the area, Blair says there's lots of fuel for the fire.

Firefighters are working hard to contain the fire and prevent sparks, Blair says.

This is the second fire at the landfill in recent months, with the first devastating the recycling facility in March.

Blair says it's a challenging location to fight a fire because it has very limited access to water.

"We need more manpower here, and more water available," he says. 

At 7 p.m. large flames continued to bloom from the origin of the fire, and fire could be seen moving north up the hillside toward the City of Vernon.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at or call 250-309-5230.

Credit: Charlotte Helston
Pictures and tweets of a fire at the Vernon landfill.

— This story was edited at It was edited again at 7 p.m. to include information from Jack Blair. Previous updates: 5:40 p.m. to include information from Courtenay Pitcher and at 5:47 p.m. to include information and photo from Charlotte Helston. Edited at 6:32 p.m. to include new comments from Courtenay Pitcher. 

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
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