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Churchill’s only waste-storage facility burns to the ground

Churchill's L5 waste transfer station is pictured engulfed in flames on April 11, 2024. (Town of Churchill) Churchill's L5 waste transfer station is pictured engulfed in flames on April 11, 2024. (Town of Churchill)
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Churchill’s only waste-storage facility is a total loss after a fire burned it to the ground last week.

Churchill Mayor Michael Spence said the fire broke out last Thursday night at the town’s L5 waste transfer station.

“The roof structure was compromised and at that point, the firefighters had to move into a containment situation. Luckily nobody was injured,” Spence told CTV News Winnipeg by phone.

The building that was originally built in the late 1940s as a military facility was used to store garbage during the winter months while the ground was too frozen to bury it. It was also home to the town’s recycling program.

Spence said the culprit of the fire was likely combustion. The building is a total loss, and was insured, he said.

The facility that once stored Churchill's waste during the winter months is shown in a 2017 photo. (Town of Churchill)

Manitoba’s Environment and Climate Change Minister Tracy Schmidt said members of her team are on the ground in Churchill to offer support.

“We're still working on exactly what those short-term and long-term solutions are going to be but again, we're here to collaborate with them and find the best way forward,” she said.

The mayor said the most pressing issue now is finding a place to store waste. The town’s remote location and its wildlife present challenges. Keeping the waste above ground, for instance, could attract polar bears.

“Churchill is an international destination. The environment and wildlife is pretty close to us, and so these are sensitive issues that we've got to deal with as we find a way to continue to manage our waste properly and effectively," said Spence.

In the long term, the town needs to find a new model for waste management, the mayor says. Work was already underway prior to the fire to potentially bring in a gasification or incineration model.

“We’ve been about two years into this. It takes time, and we need to fast-track this.”

The aftermath of the fire that burned Churchill's waste-storage facility to the ground is shown in an undated photo. (Town of Churchill)

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