Officials on Monday continued to monitor the vehicle-recycling plant at the George Town Landfill for any signs of a re-ignition of Friday’s fire.
The Cayman Islands Fire Service stated that the fire was first reported shortly after 8:30am on Friday. What was initially thought to have been a “small fire” soon raged out of control, belching thick plumes of black smoke into the sky throughout the day and into the night.
The fire erupted in a section where vehicles are crushed and compacted. At no point was the solid waste mound on fire, according to the Department of Environmental Health, which manages the landfill.
On Saturday morning, a Government Information Service spokesperson said an emergency response team had worked throughout the night to bring the blaze under control. The team, which consisted of Fire Service officers and workers from the DEH and the National Roads Authority, managed to contain the blaze over the course of the weekend.
On Monday, the smoke plumes had disappeared and the site was being monitored. A GIS statement on Monday said, “A small crew from CIFS along with the Department of Environmental Health and Island Recycling [which operates the vehicle-recycling plant] are on scene to extinguish any last remaining deep-seated pocket fires.”
The cause of the blaze was still unclear on Monday, and official investigations into the fire are expected to begin later this week.
The fire’s smoke column spread across a substantial portion of George Town on Friday, with safety concerns leading to Cayman International School closing early and George Town Primary School calling off its sports day and sending students home.
Police shut down parts of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway on Friday as the smoke wafted across the road, and government issued a notice to all businesses and residents in the area to keep their windows and doors closed. The smell of the fire was apparent throughout George Town during the day.
Students from environmental group Protect Our Future questioned what is to be done with the landfill.
“What angers us the most, is that we have brought up this issue for a while, through awareness campaigns, yet it takes a fire like this to bring it back into the spotlight,” said CIS student Daniela Suarez, 17, who is a member of Protect Our Future. “Why does tragedy have to happen for people to notice the youth’s concerns?”
Another member of the group, Mike Odagiri, 14, said, “Not only does this affect the environment, but it also affects our health, traffic, education, and the image of Cayman negatively. Spreading awareness is important, but taking action to fix the problem is truly what we need.”
In the latter part of 2019, there were several small fires at the landfill. Those fires were thought to have occurred due to a lack of proper compaction across the solid waste mound. Friday’s fire is the first blaze reported in 2020, with the resulting plumes of black smoke reminiscent of a previous fire involving a large pile of tyres at the landfill that raged for several days in December 2013.
As of press time Monday, fire officers remained at the vehicle-recycling plant.