‘Suspicious’ landfill fire under investigation

An early Tuesday morning fire at the Whitehorse landfill destroyed the gatehouse, forcing the city to temporarily close the facility to the public. The fire was discovered at 6:50 a.m.

UPDATED

An early Tuesday morning fire at the Whitehorse landfill destroyed the gatehouse, forcing the city to temporarily close the facility to the public.

Now fire investigators have turned the suspicious fire over to the RCMP because they believe it was deliberately set.

When the fire was discovered at 6:50 on Tuesday morning, it had been burning for some time.

By the time the Whitehorse Fire Department arrived and put it out, the gatehouse had burned to the ground.

No one was supposed to be inside the landfill during the night, said fire Chief Clive Sparks.

The gate at the highway, which had been locked the night before, had been broken.

“The fact that the gate was torn off is a sign that something is not quite right,” he said.

The gatehouse, originally built by Yukon College carpentry students, was where loads were sorted, and fees were established and paid.

The landfill is closed to the public until the city can set up a temporary gatehouse to deal with incoming waste, he said. But the city will continue curbside pickup of garbage as usual.

Any additional waste will just have to wait until the landfill is back up and running.

The city is also trying to limit commercial hauling operations using the dump.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that the landfill will be back up and running sometime over the weekend, or early next week,” said city spokesperson Matthew Grant Thursday.

“The remains of the gatehouse have been removed and a new foundation for a temporary gatehouse is under construction,” said Dave Muir, manager of public works.

An ATCO trailer will serve as a temporary replacement for the gatehouse.

It’s still unclear how much the fire will cost the city.

“We just recently upgraded the landfill to a computerized system, so we’ve lost everything we’ve put in this year,” said Muir.

The new computerized system cost about $50,000.

Costs also depend on the extent of the damages to the weigh scale, which was connected to the gatehouse.

The city has brought in a specialist to assess whether the scales can be repaired, or whether they will need to be replaced.

This is the second significant fire the city has had to deal with in less than a year, said Whitehorse Mayor Bev Buckway.

The other fire took place at the Canada Games Centre.

“Of course, it always comes down to the cost to the taxpayers,” she said. “That’s the part that really makes you angry when you have this kind of activity in our community.”

The city does have insurance, which should cover the majority of the costs to get the landfill back to full operation.

“It’s certainly not a great way to start 2012,” Buckway added.

Contact Chris Oke at

chriso@yukon-news.com

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