Fire and Landfills Don’t Mix

Fire and Landfills Don’t Mix Fires in landfills are very dangerous. As there is a wide range of materials contained in a landfill, if ignited, they can potentially release hazardous fumes when they burn. These types of fires are difficult to put out with water, so typically the best way to extinguish them is by suppressing the oxygen. 

How do fires start at landfills? A surface fire could be started by a lightning strike or a carelessly tossed cigarette. Fires below the surface are typically started by hot or smoldering materials being buried among the rest of the waste. These types of fires are more difficult to extinguish. 

The best way to deal with landfill fires is to prevent them in the first place. For this reason, Beaver Municipal Solutions does not allow smoking in vehicles or throughout their sites. There are however, designated smoking locations on each site. This no-smoking safety rule is strictly enforced. 

There is also an area designated at the landfill for “hot loads”, where waste that is suspect (i.e. smoke is seen coming from the load) is tipped and monitored before placing it in the cell. So what is a “hot load”? It is just as it sounds—a load of waste that contains smoldering or burning material. Typically at this time of year, hot loads come from wood ash residue from a fireplace. These ashes, although not technically burning, if still slightly warm or containing small embers, can ignite surrounding material and cause it to burst into flames. If this happens in the landfill, it is very dangerous. There is also danger in placing these ashes into a community waste collection dumpster. Garbage in the waste bin can ignite, and a fire could quickly spread to neighbouring fences, garages as well as residences and community buildings. For this reason, hot or even warm ashes should never be placed into a waste bin. Even though the ashes feel cool to the touch, buried embers can remain hot for days or even weeks. 

Rather than putting ashes from the fireplace into the community dumpster, it is better to put them into a metal container and allow them to completely cool down for several weeks. Once cooled, there are other options besides sending them for disposal. They can be spread into a garden or flowerbed to increase the pH level of the soil. They can also be put in small quantities into compost piles to increase potassium levels. As wood ash has useful properties, it is a great idea to try reusing them rather than disposing of them in the landfill. Why not give it a try! You can prevent dumpster or landfill fires and help the environment at the same time.

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