August 23, 2013 - 12:13 PM
"THERE'S A BACKSTORY HERE THAT MAY BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE WATER ISSUE"
VERNON - Multiple factors were at play when a fire broke out at the Greater Vernon landfill Monday, according to the operations manager.
The blaze started when a wood grinder malfunctioned and sent sparks flying onto a nearby wood pile. Accelerated by strong winds, the fire quickly spread to the bone dry grasslands around the landfill.
"I'm glad the staff called 911 right away and didn't try to put it out themselves," Dale Danallanko says. "Every minute counts with a fire like that."
Firefighters were out in full force, but had to spend much of their time driving back and forth from the Kalamalka Research Station on College Way picking up water.
While a leachate pond sat full of water at the site, firefighters weren't able to use it.
"It would have been like trying to fill up their tenders (tanks) with a garden hose," Danallanko says. "If I could put fire hydrants up there, I would. But it would be very expensive."
Attempts have been made in the past to connect the landfill's with other water sources, but that would mean going through private property and Danallanko says that option is currently "at a dead end." Improving access to the leachate pond is the more likely route.
But it's not just access to water that's in question. Danallanko says the wood pile that caught fire was larger than it should have been.
"It hadn't been grinded in a number of months. Ideally, it's grinded more frequently than that," he says. "There's a backstory here that may be more important than the water issue."
Staff will be debriefing on the incident and discussing how to prevent accidents before they even get started. Danallanko says there have been a handful of fires at the dump in recent years, including several grass fires and one caused by a bird that flew into an electrical transformer. This past March, a fire destroyed the recycling portion of the facility.
"We've had more than our fair share of fires," Danallanko says.
Whether started at the landfill itself or not, fire is a big concern at the facility because of the volume of wood and other materials that easily catch fire.
"We'll be looking at our standard procedures," Danallanko says. "We'll learn from this."
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013