By Elesha George
Friday’s fire at Cooks Sanitary Landfill has caused a setback at the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) which suffered the loss of a year’s worth of shredded tyres and scrap metal from more than 200 derelict vehicles.
“All the area that was cut off became completely engulfed in flames and we lost everything in there and that would include all the shredded tyres that we shredded through in excess of a year,” said General Manager Daryl Spencer.
The metal is compressed and exported while the shredded tyres were the by-product of thousands of used tyres that had filled the landfill over time.
The tyres made it easy for the fire to spread and affected around three acres, according to Spencer.
It was also difficult to extinguish – an effort that lasted into Saturday. Spencer said foam had to be used to help extinguish the blaze since water could not sufficiently do the job.
Firefighters from the All Saints, St John’s and Coolidge fire stations all responded to the blaze which Fire Chief Elvis Weaver said lasted five hours.
He said the officers were aided by two corporate citizens who arrived with water trucks to help the firemen and personnel at the authority.
“Once the blaze was under control, it was the responsibility of the authority now to carry proper landfill management,” Spencer added.
The NSWMA used additional heavy duty equipment to mine soil to control the flames late into Friday night and separated the debris to cut the fire off.
A number of residents in Five Islands may have also been affected by the thick blanket of smoke, though Spencer said he has not yet received any official report.
“That is something that we cannot rule out because a tyre fire is actually toxic plume,” he said.
“We’re kind of fortunate that the wind direction at the time was blowing from the north and east and which took much of the smoke away from Five Islands and over to the sea, but we do know that wind direction is fluid and it will change from time to time and, at some point, I do believe that the plume would have gone over Five Islands and a toxic plume like that, or smoke in general, has an effect on people suffering from respiratory distress,” he told Observer.
In the meantime, the NSWMA continues to cover the fire to prevent it from reigniting, noting that in the future, mitigation measures must be implemented to prevent more major fires, particularly those of such a toxic nature.
“We’re now creating additional breaks between all the potential fire hazards,” Spencer explained.
“We’re going to be breaking the quantum of tyres that are in a pile and create breaks between them so, should something similar occur, we don’t run the risk of loss of all the tyres or the derelict vehicles, but also to protect our administrative building at the landfill and our equipment also.”
The source of the fire has still not been determined, however the Fire Department said it continues to investigate.