After weeks of fighting the massive dumpsite fire in Coxheath, firefighters were finally able to extinguish the blaze and dramatically reduce smoke levels in the area over the past few days.
Chief Fire Officer Zebalon McLean confirmed on Tuesday that his team has put out the fire, though there are still some materials at the bottom of the garbage heaps that are “slightly smouldering” and could emit smaller amounts of smoke.
“We’ve made tremendous strides in that the remaining smoke is simply settling into the valley, it’s no longer travelling over the hills and mountain and affecting the persons to the west,” Mr. McLean said.
“There are wisps here and there but nothing major any longer.”
Responding to the call
The investigation into what caused the fire – though it may not yield concrete answers – is still ongoing, the fire chief said.
Because of the extent of the fire, evidence could have already been lost.
“But speculation doesn’t take you anywhere,” he said. “And the investigation never ended. It’s not just about sifting through material, it’s also interviewing people who were in the area about what they saw, or where they were.”
The fire might be out and the smoke lessened, but Mr. McLean still empathised with residents who have been wrestling with the thick smoke and particulates for weeks.
“I can’t help but sympathise with the residents who had to go through this ordeal. It must have been terrible, to have that on your mind and knowing you have to go back to it,” he said. “It was really tough. As a parent, any time you see children suffering it’s going to bother you.”
Firefighters doggedly worked at the site, even when it meant “putting themselves against a wall of fire,” Mr. McLean said.
“I want to commend all the fire officers, many of whom were there day and night. Those guys who responded to the call and stuck through it all did a marvellous job,” he said.