Fire crews are working around the clock to fight a fire at the Hay River landfill.

“Local fire crews have been out there all week but more recently working 24/7 on controlling the fire at the dump,” says assistant senior administrative officer at the town of Hay River Glenn Smith. “We now have firefighters from Fort Smith who have joined efforts with us.”

The NWT’s chief public health officer is warning of a possibility of poor air quality as a result of the fire. A precautionary public health advisory states exposure to poor air quality will vary and people can reduce their exposure by avoiding ‘strenuous outdoor activities and by staying indoors with windows and doors closed.’

“Children, pregnant women, seniors and those with pre-existing health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, lung or heart conditions are most at risk,” the advisory states.

“Anyone experiencing a worsening of symptoms such as wheezing, chest discomfort, or shortness of breath should seek an assessment at the health centre without delay.”

The fire has been burning deep underground since March 3, at around 25 to 30 feet. It flared up on the surface Saturday evening prompting the city to issue a local state of emergency.

Glenn says firefighters are focusing their efforts on digging and exposing debris. “It is primarily using a dig and expose type technique to pull out debris, extinguish it on the side and then move back into a safe location.”

While surface flare-ups are still visible, Smith says favourable winds are helping lessen risks associated with a collection of tires which are stored in a separate area at the landfill.

“We have been getting favourable winds and being able to manage and control that south wall area so we do think that the risks are fairly low right now with respect to the tires.”