Dark smoke rises from a deep-seated fire at the vehicle recycling area of the George Town landfill on 24 Jan.

An investigation into last month’s fire at the landfill is expected to be completed in the next two weeks, according to officials at the Cayman Islands Fire Service.

Firefighters were called out to deal with the blaze on 24 Jan., at approximately 8:30am. What was initially believed to be a small fire soon grew and burned for more than 24 hours.

The fire emitted a steady stream of black smoke that could be seen throughout George Town.

The Fire Service reported that the blaze started in the vehicle-recycling plant, run by Island Recycling. The cause of the fire remains unknown, pending the outcome of the investigation.

Fire officers stayed at the scene of the fire for three days, monitoring it as a precaution to ensure there was no re-ignition of the deep-seated blaze.

Once the investigation is completed, the Fire Service is expected to make a full statement.

Tony Sperling, right, instructs crews from the Cayman Islands Fire Service and Department of Environmental Health during a four-day training exercise late last month. – Photo: Cayman Islands Fire Service

Training on landfill fires

The week after the fire, Fire Service and the Department of Environmental Health staff underwent joint training, led by landfill fire expert Tony Sperling, which focussed on “the strategic management of incoming and existing waste materials as well as enhancing fire fighting tactics at the site”, according to the CIFS.

The training, which included the ignition of a controlled burn at the site, had been organised last year and was not in direct response to the 24 Jan. fire. However, the landfill has been the scene of several fires over the years.

Sperling has worked on upgrading the Nassau landfill site in the Bahamas, which also was known to catch fire several times a year. According to a CIFS statement, the Nassau site has since transformed into a landfill operation “consistent with North American standards for cover, compaction and overall safety”.

Roy Charlton, deputy chief fire officer for domestic, said in the statement, “The inherent characteristics of any landfill site make them susceptible to igniting and challenging to extinguish. Fires can often be deep seated and protracted incidents as we saw during January’s fire adjacent to the landfill.”

The statement continued, “Given the nature of landfill sites, fire prevention was therefore the centre of discussion during the four-day training which included both risk-specific theory and practical training.”

Richard Sims, director of the Department of Environmental Health, said that over the next three years, “our aim is to enhance our current safety and fire control operations while we restore the landfill and continue to move to a waste-to-energy solution”.

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

Subscribe now