Enough is enough: put the fire out

It’s a long way from P.E.I., but government inaction should be a concern to all Canadians

Published on July 30, 2014
Iqaluit dump fire

Some people may find this hard to believe but one of Canada’s capital cities has been under siege now for more than two months and no one outside of the capital seems that concerned.

Residents of the city of Iqaluit in Canada’s northern territory of Nunavut have had to deal with an immense dump fire that is belching out what has been described as nostril-searing smoke. The health effects of the smoke are keeping a lot of people awake at night.

The fire is somewhere deep within a massive pile of trash that is the Iqaluit city dump. The burning section — about the size of a football field and up to four storeys deep — is a smoky cauldron of untold numbers of household garbage bags.

A Canadian Press story said there are no visible flames but the subsurface heat reaches up to 2,000 C. The problem in fighting it is that the heart of the blaze is too deep for fire hoses to reach and the pile of garbage is too unstable to attack with backhoes or other equipment. The best that fire crews have been able to do is cut trenches through the garbage and isolate the burning section from the rest of the dump.

The toxic smoke is causing widespread fears concerning its ill-health effects, especially when it comes to children and pregnant women. In fact, pregnant women have been told to leave town if they can or stay indoors when conditions are bad. Repeat that sentence and then consider how incredible the situation sounds.

As far as the warning to pregnant women goes, all residents in the city must wonder what they are breathing into their lungs when the wind blows the smoke in their direction.

Different plans have been concocted to douse the stubborn fire, with the latest carrying a $2.2-million price tag. Whether that is the right plan or not, one thing is abundantly clear: someone higher up than city officials needs to step up to the plate, in particular the territorial government of Nunavut and the federal government of Canada.

This fire needs to be put out and it needs to be put out as soon as humanly possible. There comes a point when money cannot be the determining factor in government action, especially when examples of government waste could easily fill many landfill sites in this country.

This is Canada and it is the year 2014 — putting out this dump fire must be made a priority. One wonders how long such a fire would be allowed to belch its toxins if the smoke was wafting over the Peace Tower or the CN Tower?


Sea kayaks to the rescue


Thirty-three volunteers in tandem and sea kayaks and a canoe recently paddled their way to five offshore islands in the Murray Harbour area. They weren’t there to enjoy the scenery, which is spectacular, but rather to collect garbage.

The cleanup was led by the Nature Conservancy of Canada with help from the Island Nature Trust and the Southeast Environmental Association. A provincial government employee was kept busy in his speed boat hauling the debris picked up by the volunteers back to shore.

A large dumpster and a pick-up truck were filled with bags of garbage and marine litter. The marine garbage poses a threat to wildlife from ingestion and entanglement. The Murray Harbour islands are an important foraging grounds for harbour seals, bald eagles and great blue herons.

A tip of the paddle to all volunteers is in order.