Cause of landfill blaze still a mystery

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

Nearly a month after the car-recycling plant at the George Town landfill went up in flames, the cause of the blaze remains unknown.

“Investigations into the fire are still ongoing,” said Ricardo Charlton, the deputy director of domestic operations, at the Cayman Islands Fire Service. “At this time, we are not able to say the cause of the fire, nor can we give any information about any preliminary findings.”

The fire was sparked on 24 Jan., sometime around 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.

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

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Since that training, fire officers said they were called out to another fire at the landfill.
A statement from the Government Information Services Friday said that response was a preventative measure.

“On Monday, 10 February, CIFS were called to the landfill site to undertake preventative damping to stop a very deep-seated hotspot becoming a fire,” the statement said,
Acting under the mantra, ‘prevention is better than cure’, DEH staff alongside CIFS officers, are completing a weekly analysis of the landfill, with the goal to detect any potential hotspots.

The statement added, “Waste operators remain vigilant to look for any early signs of heat or smoke and thermal imaging drones are deployed each week as a precaution. Where a hotspot is identified, CIFS work with DEH colleagues to excavate and damp down the area to prevent full combustion and smoke plumes from developing.

“Additionally, improved operating practices at waste sites are now in place, prioritising segregation of high-risk items such as tyres, cylinders and white goods.”

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