UPDATED: Smoke still rising from landfill

Updated – 10 March, 10:30am: Smoke continues to emit from the George Town landfill this morning. The Esterley Tibbetts Highway remained open throughout rush hour, alleviating the congestion seen Monday.

Officials said they would decide this afternoon, following a 4pm operational meeting, if residents of Lakeside Apartments and Watlers Drive can return to their homes. Both areas were evacuated Sunday night due to concerns over the amount of smoke in the vicinity.

Although the amount of smoke visible from the landfill fire had reduced significantly overnight, black smoke was again seen to be rising from the site later in the morning.

The Cayman Islands Fire Service, Department of Environmental Health and Royal Cayman Islands Police Service remain on site at the landfill.

Motorists are advised to stay vigilant while on the stretch of highway between the Butterfield roundabout and Camana Bay, reduce driving speed and keep their vehicle windows closed, as a thick bank of smoke is covering the road.

According to a statement issued by the Government Information Services, the Fire Service’s focus today will be “to further reduce the amount of visible smoke in the area and lessen its impact to local residents”.

DEH continues to excavate the site, allowing firemen to dampen down the area and reduce smoke. More favourable weather conditions are expected today, which should aid fire officers’ efforts.

Officials said operational meetings at the scene will be held at noon and 4pm today, and a decision will be made whether the smoke has been reduced sufficiently to allow Lakeside and Watler Road residents to return home at the 4pm meeting.

Commenting on the volume of food donations and well-wishes offered to crews, Chief Fire Officer Paul Walker said, “Everyone at CIFS is overwhelmed by the level of public support and generosity shown to our crews. During protracted and challenging incidents such as this, it really means a lot that the community is behind us. This is CaymanKind at its best.”

Officials are asking anyone experiencing problems with irritation or difficulty breathing to contact a healthcare professional or seek help from the Accident & Emergency Department at the Health Services Authority.

Updated – 9 March, 7:03pm: The Ministry of Education, Youth Sports, Agriculture and Lands have announced that the following schools and institutions will reopen its doors to both students and staff tomorrow

Cayman Islands Further Education Centre (CIFEC)
Cornerstones
Early Intervention Program at CIFEC
John Gray High
Little Stars
Stepping Stones

George Town Primary School (GTPS) and the Transitional Unit located on the GTPS campus will remain closed tomorrow due to the levels of smoke in the area. Education officials will continue to monitor the situation at GTPS and provide necessary updates as they arise.

Updated – 9 March, 5:10pm: The southbound lanes of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway are also being temporarily opened until 6:30PM.

Breaking – 9 March, 4:23pm: The northbound lanes of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway, between the AL Thompston roundabout and Camana Bay, are temporarily reopened between 4pm and 6:30pm. The southbound lanes remain closed and the speed limit is reduced to 30mph.

Marked police vehicles will also be stationed at both ends of this section of the Esterley Tibbetts (AL Thompsons roundabout and Lawrence Boulevard). Motorists choosing to travel via the Esterley Tibbetts during this time are advised to exercise caution, obey all instructions from traffic officers, and observe the adjusted speed limit. In addition, your vehicle’s windows should be kept closed and the air system set to recirculate internal air, in order to avoid unnecessary exposure to smoke fumes.

Because the southbound lanes will remain closed, traffic congestion is still expected. As such, the RCIPS is asking the public to avoid all non-essential travel on Esterley Tibbetts and West Bay Road, in both directions, during the evening rush hour.

Breaking – 9 March, 4:01pm: Officials are planning on a controlled reopening of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway.

Attempts will be made to open the Esterley Tibbetts Highway northbound to help deal with the rush hour traffic, but smoke is still a major concern.

More details to follow.

Updated – 9 March, 2:30pm: The Cayman Islands Fire Service and Department of Environmental Health  and RCIPS remain on site at the George Town Landfill.

Chief Fire Officer Paul Walker says that his teams are continuing to make good progress across all sectors. The Esterley Tibbetts Highway is no longer closed from Camana to Cost U Less. The reopening of that section has greatly improved traffic flow.

It is hoped that a decision about the complete reopening of the highway can be made by mid-afternoon. The decision depends on how much reduction of smoke crews can achieve.

Thick smoke from the George Town landfill fire blanketed parts of the island
Thick smoke from the George Town landfill fire blanketed parts of the island

Updated – 9 March, Noon: Acting Port Director Joseph Woods says Seven Seas Explorer cruise ship has cancelled its call to Grand Cayman due to the smoke emanating from the George Town landfill fire. The ship has a passenger capacity of 750.

Meanwhile, gridlock continues in George Town and West Bay as the Esterley Tibbetts Highway remains closed between the Butterfield Roundabout and the Camana Bay roundabout.

The landfill fire has caused traffic gridlock
Traffic at a standstill

Updated – 9 March, 10:44am: Police are reminding the public that the Esterley Tibbetts Highway will remain closed due to the fire incident that is currently taking place. Motorists travelling from the direction of West Bay are being asked to divert to West Bay Road at your earliest convenience during your travels. Motorists travelling from George Town are also to travel along West Bay Road as far as possible in order to arrive at their destinations. The RCIPS is urging motorists who do not need to travel to and from West Bay are being asked to refrain from doing so until absolutely necessary, in order to alleviate some of the traffic flow hindrances that this road closure will cause during morning commute.

Updated – 9 March, 10am – The Cayman Islands Fire Service and Department of Environmental Health and RCIPS remain on site at the George Town Landfill.

Crews have worked throughout the night to contain the fire to the landfill and will continue their efforts throughout the morning. The focus of firefighting has shifted to the mound, where the fire is concentrated.

Chief Fire Officer Paul Walker thanked his officers and those of DEH and RCIPS for their tireless efforts.

The Esterley Tibbetts Highway from Butterfield roundabout to Cost U Less is closed though officials are hoping to bring the closure further south to Camana Bay as soon as possible to alleviate traffic. The closure will be reassessed at midday.

The Cornerstone School, the Transitional Unit, Stepping Stones, Little Star’s, the Early Intervention Program at CIFEC, St. George’s Pre-School, John Gray High School, George Town Primary, CIFEC and Cayman International School will also be closed to students on Monday. Both the shelter at John Gray and the Red Cross shelter are now closed.

The situation at the site remains dynamic and nearby residents are advised to close doors and windows and monitor air conditioning units for smoke intake. The landfill will be closed to the public until further notice.

Chief Walker expressed his sympathy to all who had been affected by the incident and assures them that the Fire, Police and DEH are working to achieve a resolution as quickly as possible.

Persons experiencing any problems with irritation or difficulty breathing should contact their healthcare professional or seek help from the Accident & Emergency Department at the Health Services Authority.

Updated – 9 March, 8:22am: The fire raging at the George Town landfill remains dynamic and nearby residents are advised to close doors and windows and monitor air conditioning units for smoke intake.

Police are reminding the public that the Esterley Tibbetts Highway will remain closed due to the fire incident that is currently taking please.

Traffic is at a standstill along West Bay Road.

 

Updated – 9 March, 1:38am: The Cayman Islands Fire Service (CIFS) and Department of Environmental Health (DEH) remain on site at the George Town Landfill, where CIFS crews are continuing to work systematically to contain the fire.

According to a Government Information Services update issued Monday morning weather conditions “remain challenging at this time and the crew’s priority is to contain the fire, striving to ensure it does not spread to the Esterley Tibbetts Highway (ETH) and Camana Bay areas.”

As previous reported the ETH between Camana Bay and the Butterfield roundabout will remain closed on Monday morning (9 March) as a precautionary measure. The closure will be reassessed at midday.

John Gray High School, George Town Primary, CIFEC and Cayman International School will also be closed to students on Monday. Although the shelter at John Gray, which can receive animals, will remain open. The Red Cross shelter is also available.

”The situation at the site remains dynamic and nearby residents are advised to close doors and windows and monitor air conditioning units for smoke intake. The landfill will be closed to the public until further notice.”

A further update will be provided after 8am, the statement said.

“Persons experiencing any problems with irritation or difficulty breathing should contact their healthcare professional or seek help from the Accident & Emergency Department at the Health Services Authority. The direct phone number for people experiencing respiratory issues due to smoke is 244-2945,” it added.


Updated – 9 March, 12.30am –
Officials day the Esterley Tibbetts Highway, between A.L. Thompson’s and Camana Bay, will remain closed in both directions on Monday morning while firefighters continue to battle the blaze at the George Town landfill.

Drivers will be diverted onto West Bay Road or Godfrey Nixon Way.

Updated – 10:20pm: Residents of Watlers Drive in George Town are being evacuated as the wind carries smoke from the landfill fire into the area.

Joey Hew, government minister and MLA for George Town North, told the Compass that officials were going door to door to ask residents to leave “out of an abundance of caution because of the smoke”.

He said residents of nearby Marbel Drive were not currently being asked to leave their homes as the wind was not bringing the smoke to that area right now, but he warned that a shift in the wind direction could mean further evacuations in the vicinity.

Updated – 10:10pm: Twenty-seven firefighters plus a team from the Department of Environmental Health remained at the George Town landfill on Sunday night, according to Premier Alden McLaughlin.

“Crews are seeing success from their application of a specialised fire retardant,” he messaged a Whatsapp group for Prospect residents.

Crews were tackling the fire from three strategic fronts based on risk: the Esterley Tibbetts Highway, a site where the tyres are being stored, and the top of the landfill mound, he said.

”Chief Fire Officer Paul Walker notes that the effect of the fire retardant is to turn the smoke white and then convert it to steam.”

Walker also says CIFS crews are doing all they can to prevent the fire from spreading across the Esterley Tibbetts Highway, according to Government Information Services.

The RCIPS remains on site.

“On behalf of the Government and the country I would like to convey our deepest gratitude to Chief Walker and his team for their tireless efforts and commitment,” Minister for Home Affairs Hon. Tara Rivers is quoted as saying in the Premier’s message.

Ministry of Health Update

Anyone experiencing any problems with irritation or difficulty in breathing, should contact their healthcare professional or seek help from the Accident & Emergency Department at the Health Services Authority. Please also note that the direct phone number for people experiencing respiratory issues due to smoke should be 244-2945.

Shelters are open at John Grey High School and the Red Cross of Huldah Avenue for those who need to seek shelter from the smoke.

The Ministry of Education has also announced that George Town Primary School will be closed Monday due to the smoke generated by the fire.

Updated – 8:45pm: Hazard Management Cayman Islands’ deputy director Simon Boxall told the Compass the fire is being fought on three separate fronts.

He advised residents to keep their doors and windows closed and to turn off their air conditioners if their homes were being impacted by the smoke from the landfill fire.

Updated – 7:10pm: The Red Cross shelter on Huldah Avenue has been opened to provide accommodation for people who have had to evacuate because of the landfill fire.

UPDATED – 6:50pm: Cayman International School in Camana Bay will be closed on Monday, due to concerns over the continuing blaze at the landfill.

School officials have decided to close the school as a precautionary measure, in case the wind shifts.

In a statement issued at 6:50pm, the Department of Environmental Health said members of the public are advised to stay away from the smoke, and anyone experiencing respiratory issues due to smoke should immediately contact the Accident and Emergency Unit at the Cayman Islands Hospital on 244-2495. It said the DEH would be guided by the Fire Service and the Medical Officer of Health as to the progress of the fire and if any shelters should be opened to the public.

UPDATED – 5:55pm: Residents of Lakeside Apartments, opposite the landfill on the Esterley Tibbetts Highway, are evacuating the complex as the fire continues to grow, according to Fire Service officials.

The Esterley Tibbetts Highway, between the A.L. Thompson roundabout and Camana Bay, has been closed to traffic, although residents leaving Lakeside are being allowed access to the road to evacuate.

According to the National Weather Service, wind conditions are currently 20-25 knots, blowing east-northeast, with occasional strong gusts. These conditions are expected to continue through to Monday morning. The high winds are continuing to fan the fire.

UPDATED: [8 March, 5:35pm]:  High northeasterly winds on Sunday helped re-ignite a deep-seated fire at the George Town landfill, which then spread and built into one of the largest dump fires the Cayman Islands has seen.

Fire trucks from a number of stations rushed to the scene Sunday afternoon, as thick plumes of black smoke rose over the dump and were carried by the winds across downtown George Town and South Sound. The smoke rose at least 100 feet into the air and could be seen across much of the island.

In an update on the situation issued by Government Information Services around 5:30pm, the blaze was described as “very dynamic” and “an escalating, challenging fire fanned by strong winds”.

UPDATED [8 March, 3:50pm]: High winds have re-ignited the fire at the George Town landfill.

By mid-afternoon, large plumes of black smoke was seen rising again from the site as northeasterly winds picked up.

The smoke appeared to be coming from two different areas of the landfill.

Smoke from the landfill fire is seen across the road at Lakeside Villas late on Sunday afternoon. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

UPDATED [8 March, 12:36pm]: Cayman Islands Fire Service crews were recalled to the George Town landfill just after 10am Sunday but say they have found no sign of smoke or fire at the site.

“Nevertheless the crew is saturating the area of concern and will continue saturating and monitoring throughout the night if necessary,” according to a Government Information Services spokesperson.

Firefighters left the site at 8pm Saturday believing the fire was completely extinguished, according to GIS. The Department of Environmental Health was monitoring the site for any further signs of fire and CIFS crews remain on scene.

[ORIGINAL STORY]

Fire crews were battling a blaze at the George Town landfill Saturday afternoon.

The surface fire was reported around 1pm.

According to a Government Information Service update mid-afternoon, fire crews were making “good progress … to prevent further spread and extinguish the fire while flames and smoke are fanned by windy conditions”.

Additional resources were mobilised from West Bay Fire Station to support the effort.

Firefighters use a digger to help battle a deep-seat fire at the George Town landfill on Saturday. Later, on Sunday, high winds re-ignited and spread the blaze. – Photo: GIS

An update issued by Government Information Service at 6pm stated that fire officers are working closely with DEH colleagues to excavate and extinguish any remaining pockets of fire, as well as damping down to cool surrounding area to minimise the chance of any reignition.

The latest fire comes after Fire Service officers and Department of Environmental Health staff tackled a number of ‘deep-seated hotspots’ at the landfill throughout last week.

Officials said the landfill remained open to the public and nearby roads also remained open Saturday afternoon.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Burn, baby burn! Meanwhile, the country is still awaiting the report on the cause of the last big landfill fire, specific to the area leased by a private company, which was reported as the source location of that blaze.

    Only in Cayman can public agencies and officials get away with being silent or tardy on serious matters affecting the public at large!!

    Who the hell have we become??!!