Poor visibility hampers response efforts to Penticton landfill fire

Crews spent several hours extinguishing a wood pile fire at the Campbell Mountain landfill on Sunday night. Penticton fire department

Crews rushed to a fire at the Campbell Mountain landfill near Penticton, B.C., on Sunday night as poor visibility caused by smoke from the U.S. wildfires initially hampered response efforts.

Penticton fire Chief Larry Watkinson said approximately 15 firefighters discovered the raw woodpile on fire at the landfill off of Reservoir Road around 11 p.m. The fire had grown to a significant size before it was first reported by witnesses.

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“It came in as a brush/grass fire, but on scene we found the raw woodpile in the landfill on fire, and it was significant. It must have been burning for a while because with the smoke, people would normally report that a lot faster but it was just not visible,” Watkinson said.

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“With the amount of smoke we have in the valley, if you are uncertain or unsure, better to call, because if there is fire on the hillsides right now we are not going to be able to see it.”

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Watkinson said the fire department declared a second alarm and requested support from the neighbouring Naramata fire department to contain the blaze.

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Residents in the area reported being woken up to the sounds of sirens as numerous fire trucks rushed to the scene.

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“It’s not uncommon for us to have fires in the landfill due to the sheer complexities of that kind of management system where people are disposing of different materials, known or unknown, and the reality is hot embers are transported to the landfill and they can ignite,” Watkinson said.

No structures were damaged and no one was injured.

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) and its landfill management team are now working on clean-up and remediation efforts. Operations have not been impacted.

The RDOS says heavy equipment operators at the landfill helped smother the fire and bury remaining embers.

There was no damage to structures or equipment, the regional district says, and the cause of the fire is not known at this time.

The Okanagan Valley remains socked in by heavy smoke as wildfires rage in the northwest United States.

On Monday, the air quality in the Okanagan was ranked at 10+, which is considered a very high health risk.

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B.C.’s Ministry of Environment says a reprieve could be coming late Monday or early Tuesday with precipitation in the forecast.

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