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Three-week-old fire still burning at Alberta landfill

Firefighters continue to battle a blaze that has been burning for more than three weeks at a landfill near Medicine Hat in southern Alberta.

A Cypress County spokesman says the owner of the Westar landfill has been difficult to reach.

Jason Storch, the county's assistant director of emergency management, says there's been no contact with owner Terry Schmunk.

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The fire that spewed toxic smoke into the air was reported Nov. 18.

As air quality deteriorated, the county was forced to order that nine homes in the area be evacuated.

Storch is reluctant to estimate how much longer it may take to put out the fire.

"There is less smoke and at night you can only see a glow on some occasions," he said. "During the day there is just an impression of smoke."

The cause of the fire is under investigation. An Alberta Environment inspector has been on site since Day 1 to document the situation and check on what's in the landfill. The department has also assigned an investigator.

Hellfire Suppression Services from Rocky Mountain House, Alta., was hired to put out the fire. Crews are dealing with 1.2 million cubic metres of dumped material and their efforts were hampered last week by the extreme cold, Storch said.

"At –44 C the line of air supply to those fighting the fire will freeze," said Storch. "During this period they did surface work related to fighting the fire instead."

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The Westar landfill is eight kilometres east of Medicine Hat.

The cost of fighting the fire is expected to exceed $1-million.

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