It took Cayman Islands firefighters nearly 12 hours to bring a massive blaze at the George Town Landfill under control.
Fire officials said the first report of flames was around 6pm Sunday. The blaze was brought under control just before dawn Monday morning.
Smoke was still rising from the burning trash after dawn Monday. Drivers along the Esterley-Tibbetts Highway had to travel through a light haze of smoke from the dump fire.
Deputy Chief Fire Officer Doorly McLaughlin said crews were on the scene Monday using bulldozers to dig up piles of trash and locate the source of the flames.
‘You have to do that to extinguish it,’ Mr. McLaughlin said. ‘You’ve got a lot of smouldering fires…it’s deep-seated.’
‘It is a nasty fight,’ he said.
The mound that caught fire Sunday is the same one that has burst into flames on several occasions within the past two years. At least two major fires hit the dump in 2007, and another large fire struck in 2008.
Between January 2006 and mid-2008, fire department records show the landfill caught fire 21 times. Most of the fires were smaller and not immediately visible from the nearby neighbouring homes or businesses.
Orange flames and billowing smoke from Sunday’s George Town Landfill fire could be seen for miles around Grand Cayman.
Mr. McLaughlin said the situation was made more difficult by extremely dry conditions on the island right now. Through August, the weather service notes Cayman is currently experiencing its driest year on record.
Firefighters were at the dump Sunday night pumping water onto the trash mound, which is one of the largest at the landfill.
‘(The drought) does contribute to the fire spreading,’ Mr. McLaughlin said.
No fire or public works crews were hurt in the blaze.
Dozens of residents stopped along the Esterley-Tibbetts Highway Sunday night to take pictures of the raging blaze, which was located on the west-facing side of the landfill and was blowing out toward George Town harbour.
Others watched from the roof of Treasure Island resort where the fire could be clearly seen.
It was unknown what started the fire, but previously landfill fires similar to Sunday’s have been started by anything from spontaneous combustion to discarded cigarettes.