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UPDATE: 'No environmental pollution' in the Fraser River from barge fire, but monitoring continues

Flames are no longer visible and the smoke over New Westminster has waned, but firefighting crews remain on scene of a barge fire in the Fraser River.

Flames are no longer visible and the smoke over New Westminster has waned, but firefighting crews remain on scene of a barge fire in the Fraser River.

Crews have been on scene since the early morning hours battling the fire on a barge containing compacted cars, sending a giant plume of noxious smoke into the air.  The fully loaded 76-metre barge was moored just north of the Pattullo Bridge.

Danielle Jang, who works in media relations for the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, reported as of 3:15 p.m. that Vancouver and Surrey fire departments remained on site at the fire.

"Their fire suppression efforts have been successful with a significant reduction in smoke," she said in an email.

A fireboat from Vancouver had been called because firefighters in Surrey could not attack the worst of the flames near the front of the vessel, farthest from shore. Officials said the fire had worked its way deep into the load of vehicles, and the thick, black smoke that filled the air this morning resulted from the burning oil, tires, seats, dashboards and other materials in the crushed vehicles.

Jang said the barge is being leased by Schnitzer Steel, one of North America's largest recyclers of metal products. How and when exactly the fire started is still unknown. But Jang confirmed the barge contained scrap metal.

The fire burned much of the day because upper levels of the load needed to be removed to be able to get water on the fire below.

Vancouver Fire Chief Darrell Reid, on Twitter, said the firefighting effort was very challenging and that it was expected to be a "long duration event."




The Record also asked Jang what kind of environmental effects the fire might have on the river and its surroundings and what agencies would get involved in its investigation.

Jang said the Coast Guard has reported that "there has been no environmental pollution in the water at this point," but they are continuing to monitor the situation.

Meanwhile, New Westminster residents should still keep an eye on Metro Vancouver's air quality warnings.

Metro Vancouver's warning came as a result of what it described as "sporadic elevated levels of fine particulate matter" that were measured at air quality monitoring stations this morning.

Compounding the air issues are smoke from the Whyte Lake wildfire in West Vancouver, plus wildfires burning in California, Oregon and Washington.

"Smoke concentrations can vary widely across the region as winds and temperatures change, and as fire behaviour changes," the notice read.



- with files from CP


Fraser River barge fire
Here's the state of the firefighting efforts as of about 1 p.m. Friday. - Julie MacLellan


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