UPDATED: Landfill fire contained, monitoring continues


Update (11:24am 26 Jan.) 
Local fire officials are set to hand over control of the site of this weekend’s fire at the George Town landfill to operator Island Recycling Sunday afternoon.

In its latest update issued Sunday morning, the Cayman Islands Fire Service said Department of Environmental Health and fire crews are continuing to monitor the site of a blaze at the vehicle recycling plant, which is now fully contained.

“Excavation and damping down efforts continued until 2am this morning (Sunday) and a watching brief was maintained until 8am. DEH and CIFS remain at the site this morning (Sunday, 26 Jan.) to thoroughly search the debris and locate potential hot spots, dousing the area as required,” the statement said.

Fire broke out at the site Friday morning, sending thick black plumes of smoke into the sky. It prompted the early closure of schools nearby.

Island Recycling “will take over the site with strict instructions to call 911 in the event of any re-ignition, however small,” Fire Services said in the statement.

“Hose lines and trailer pumps will remain on site to enable quick deployment if required. CIFS crews will also make regular site visits to assess the scene using thermal imaging cameras,” according to the statement.

Minimal smoke is expected from the scene throughout the day, it added.

However, Fire Services advised residents and businesses in the vicinity to observe and react accordingly by closing doors and windows if they are affected.

Chief Fire Officer Paul Walker commended the efforts of fire personnel.

“CIFS crews have worked tirelessly to fully extinguish this large fire and will remain on site to see this incident to a safe conclusion and minimise the chance of re-ignition. Given the scale and volume of mixed waste involved in this fire and the significant operational challenges we faced, I am very pleased and proud of our response and continued professional commitment,” Walker said in the statement.

Fire Services said it will conduct a thorough investigation and full operational debrief.

“Lessons learned will focus on minimising the risk of a future incident, improving CIFS tactics and response where possible and reducing the potential operational challenges faced by responding fire and rescue crews,” the statement added.

 A further update, the statement said, will be provided from the scene Monday morning.

Update (1pm, 25 Jan.): Chief Fire Officer Paul Walker said in a statement Saturday that the fire at the George Town Landfill is now under control.

The fire broke out on Friday morning at an area of the landfill where vehicles are recycled.

According to a Government Information Service statement, crews from the Department of Environmental Health, Cayman Islands Fire Service and National Roads Authority worked throughout the night to bring the fire at the Island Recycling plant under control.

Fire crews will continue to work throughout today with DEH and NRA staff to excavate and turn over mixed waste as fire fighting continues.

Chief Fire Officer Walker said in the statement, “I am immensely proud of the hard work CIFS colleagues have undertaken over the past 24 hours. A very challenging fire involving mixed waste materials, difficult access, limited water supplies and variable winds is now under control.”

A smoke plume was still visible at the scene Saturday morning, though it was much reduced from the billowing black clouds of smoke seen throughout Friday.

Some amount of smoke is likely to be seen from the site throughout the day as remaining deep seated fires are exposed and thoroughly doused, according to the statement.

“Preventing re-ignition remains a priority for CIFS and crews will continue to work tirelessly to see the incident to a full and safe resolution,” the statement read.

Fire Services plans to launch an investigation into the fire once it had been fully extinguished, officials said.

Meanwhile, residents and businesses in the vicinity are being advised to keep windows and doors closed as a precaution. Air conditioning units should be monitored for their effectiveness and to ensure smoke is not drawn into buildings.

The main George Town Landfill site operated by DEH remains operational and was unaffected by the fire, according to the statement.

 Earlier posts:

Update (7:49pm): 
Chief Fire Officer Paul Walker took to Twitter tonight to assure that local fire crews will continue to monitor the site of the fire at the George Town landfill overnight. Walker, in a tweet on Twitter at 7:27pm, urged residents and businesses in the vicinity of the landfill to keep doors and windows closed. He said an update on the CIFS’s progress will be issued in the morning.

Update (5pm):
Department of Environmental Health and Cayman Islands Fire Service crews continue to fight a fire at the vehicle recycling plant next to the George Town Landfill.
 
CIFS crews from both West Bay and Central Fire Stations have now been deployed across the affected area, according to a press release issued by the DEH Friday afternoon. The crews’ current focus is to reduce any spread of fire to other areas of the landfill site and contain the fire to full extinguishment, according to the DEH.
 
“Tackling a fire at any recycling plant always has its challenges due to the combination of materials with differing combustion characteristics found at the site,” chief fire officer Paul Walker said. “This will mean the incident is likely to be a protracted one that we will be tackling over the coming few days.”
 
The Health Ministry has provided additional heavy equipment from the National Roads Authority to assist and private-sector partners are set to provide additional wells to assist, according to the release.
 
“Changing wind directions and a long fire front have meant the need for us to change our strategy as required in order to contain the fire. Our crews are working tirelessly to bring the fire under control and to a swift end,” Walker said.
 
Residents and businesses affected by the smoke plume are reminded to keep windows and doors closed until the fire has been extinguished. Properties with air conditioning units should continue to monitor their effectiveness and ensure smoke is not drawn into buildings. The Public Health Department advises the public that, if anyone is exposed to the smoke and starts to develop respiratory symptoms (e.g. cough, shortness of breath), they should attend or contact a healthcare facility for assessment and management as needed, the release readfs.
 
Officers at the Frank Sound Fire Station are providing additional coverage for the rest of Grand Cayman.

UPDATE: (2:01pm): The southbound lanes of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway have been reopened to traffic after they were closed due to a fire that continues to burn near the George Town Landfill, according to police.

UPDATE: (1:35pm): The southbound lanes of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway, between the Cayman International School roundabout and the Butterfield roundabout, have been temporarily closed due to the fire at the George Town Landfill, according to police. The northbound lanes currently remain open but may also be closed if necessary.

The road closures come as the Department of Environmental Health and Cayman Islands Fire Service crews battle a fire at the vehicle recycling plant adjacent to the George Town Landfill, according to a Government Information Services press release issued Friday morning.

The fire has produced plumes of smoke that can be seen from miles away. Government is urging nearby residents and businesses to close their windows and ensure air conditioning units are not pulling in smoke, according to a Government Information Services press release.

The fire has forced the closure of Cayman International School. George Town Primary School sports day was also closed early and students relocated from the Truman Bodden Sports Complex to John Gray High School due to safety concerns, according to the Department of Education Services.

“It is unfortunate that the GTPS sports day has ended earlier than expected,” director of education services Tammy Hopkins said. “While we fully understand that there may be inconvenience caused as a result of this, student safety is our priority. Based on an advisory by the Fire Service and Department of Environmental Health, our staff took proactive measures to prevent any potential negative effects on our students and staff who may inhale the smoke fumes.”

The Transition Unit located on the GTPS site was also closed earlier today. Regular classes are still scheduled to resume on Tuesday 28 2020 for GTPS.

John Gray High School and Cayman Islands Further Education Centre (CIFEC) are being monitored.

UPDATE (11:14am): Department of Environmental Health and Cayman Islands Fire Service crews are battling a fire at the vehicle recycling plant adjacent to the George Town Landfill, according to a Government Information Services press release issued Friday morning.

CIFS crews arrived at the site at 8.32am, where a “deep seated fire had emerged among the vehicles,” according to GIS. Fire Services staff are working closely with DEH and plant operators to move surrounding vehicles not involved in the fire. The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service helicopter and thermal imaging cameras also assisted to help crews pin-point the fire, according to GIS.

With current variable winds, surrounding residents and business affected by this smoke plume are advised to keep windows and doors closed. Properties with air conditioning units should monitor their effectiveness and ensure smoke is not drawn into buildings, according to the release.

UPDATE (9:45am): The George Town Landfill is closed to the public and Cayman International School has been evacuated as a fire continues to burn at the dump.

 The Cayman Islands Fire Service expects the blaze to be extinguished in the next few hours, according to a CIFS spokesperson at the scene. Firefighters were originally called out to the site at 8:30am.

 The fire is not believed to be burning on the main mound of the landfill, but rather in the area where tyres and oil are stored.
 
[Original story]: A fire is burning at the George Town Landfill.
 
A Cayman Islands Fire Service spokesperson confirmed with the Cayman Compass what he described as a “small” fire at the site. Bypassers reported seeing plumes of black smoke rising from the site.
 
No other details were immediately available.
 
The Compass will update this story as more information becomes available. 
Related stories

Support local journalism. Subscribe to the all-access pass for the Cayman Compass.

Subscribe now