It was protection of the environment, not property, that was top of mind for crews called out to battle a fire that broke out at the Hartland landfill Thursday night.
Saanich Fire responded to a call of “smoke showing” at the landfill at 6:30 p.m. Thursday with two engines, a tanker and nine firefighters.
Capt. Brock Henson, emergency program officer with Saanich Fire, said initial crews discovered “a large uncontrolled fire, approximately 50 feet in diameter on the active face in the landfill.”
The situation was quickly upgraded, with calls for assistance put out to Victoria, Central Saanich and Highlands fire departments, with five tanker trucks used to shuttle water to the scene.
“We are going through quite a process of digging up a lot of the household waste and making sure that we thoroughly soak that waste down,” Henson said Friday. “Landfill fires can be very, very stubborn and can take some time to put out.”
The fire quickly grew to about 100 feet in diameter and resulted in the landfill being closed to the public over the weekend. The firefighting efforts were aided by Friday’s rainfall.
“Our No. 1 priority is ensuring human health and protection of the environment,” said Russ Smith, CRD senior manager of environmental resource management.
Water from the firefighting efforts were captured by the landfill’s leachate system, with no discharge to the surrounding environment.
“We always want to make sure we’re containing and dealing with that leachate and ensuring none of that spills out over ground or into the groundwater and affect fish-bearing habitat,” said Smith.
Dr. Richard Stanwick, the chief medical officer with Island Health, said the main concerns from a public health standpoint were the contents of the plume of smoke emanating from the fire.
“Everything that is put into the landfill has the opportunity of being put into the air as it burns,” said Stanwick, adding the exposure was probably less than that caused by nearby forest fires that blanketed Victoria with smoke a few weeks back.
But he did say the incident serves as an example for the proper disposal of hazardous waste and batteries.
“It’s why the CRD has been promoting for people to only dispose of household waste and not hazardous materials [in the landfill],” said Stanwick. “This is just another good reason why people have to be very judicious in what they put into our landfills.”