A fire that broke out on a dock at the Squamish Terminals this week has been fully contained, although efforts to extinguish the blaze continue on Sunday, April 19.
Squamish Terminals has engaged Fraser River Pile & Dredge to dismantle the top of the berth to allow firefighters better access to the fire. It is hoped the fire will be extinguished by Sunday night, according to a joint statement released by the B.C. Ministry of Environment, Squamish Terminals and Vancouver Coastal Health.
An air quality advisory that had been in place since Friday was lifted Sunday afternoon due to improved air quality. Smoke from the structural fire is negligible and fine particulate concentrations have returned to more expected levels, according to the Ministry.
Open burning, such as backyard fires and campfires, remains restricted within a 20-km radius of Squamish Municipal Hall. This was put into effect to avoid any additional smoke that could affect the air quality while suppression efforts are underway.
Vancouver Coastal Health's Drinking Water Officer "is confident" the fire has posed no threat to the District of Squamishwater supply systems.
VCH is, however, recommending all playground equipment and outdoor toys directly downwind of the smoke plume zone be hosed down with water. The recommendation is being issued "out of a complete abundance of caution; there is no known risk."
District crews have been mobilized and are hosing down school playgrounds in the plume zone. Signage will be posted in each playground as work is completed.
The regional health authority also recommended avoiding the consumption of garden vegetables for the time being.
Continued suppression efforts involve further dismantling of the burning dock, which first caught fire Thursday evening and is made from pilings saturated with the preservative, creosote. The efforts could result in flare-ups and increased smoke as hot spots continue to burn.
On Saturday night, the District of Squamish lifted a level 4 water restriction that had been in place since Friday morning. Fire crews are not drawing from the water supply to the same extent as Day 1 of the blaze, and water supply has remained stable and sufficient, according to the District.
People are asked to stay away from beach areas at Nexen Beach, the wind sports spit, and along the Mamquam Blind Channel diue to potential fire debris hazards.
Booms are being placed with efforts to contain the debris as quickly as possible, and will remain in place for as long as ncessary.
Global is also reporting that up to 100,000 young chum salmon may have been lost in the fire, possibly escaping from or dying inside underwater pens located near the burning dock.
Fire crews suspect the blaze may have began as an electrical fire, possibly sparking at a nearby power box.
A Grieg Star Shipping vessel carrying wood pulp, the Star Atlantic, was berthed alongside the dock Thursday when the fire broke out and was cut free to avoid being caught up in the fire, said Squamish Terminals vice president Kim Stegeman.
By Sunday, Squamish Terminals gradually resumed business operations.
“We are grateful there were no injuries… We’re cooperating fully with inquiries,” Stegeman said at a joint press conference Friday with Squamish Fire Chief Bob Fulton and Squamish Mayor Patricia Heintzman.
Those with symptoms stemming from asthma, chronic respiratory disease and heart disease are urged to seek medical attention if they become persistently bothersome in current air conditions.
Those with chronic underlying health problems should postpone strenuous physical activity until the advisory is lifted.
Heintzman told media "one or two" people were taken to hospital with breathing issues as a result of the fire, but no serious injuries have been reported.
An Emergency Operations Centre has been operational since the fire began, led by the District of Squamish. Once Squamish Fire Rescue has extinguished the fire, the next phase of the response will transition solely to the environmental response effort, and will be coordinated by Squamish Terminals, the ministry and VCH.
For the full story read Pique Newsmagazine or visit www.piquenewsmagazine.com on Thursday, April 23.
With files from Brandon Barrett.