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Officials: landfill fire sparked by spontaneous combustion

By Joe Johnson

The Barrow County Fire Department on Monday announced they determined that spontaneous combustion was the cause of a landfill fire that since mid-November darkened the sky and irritated the senses of area residents.

Officials also said on the fire department's Facebook page that continuous fire suppression operations at the landfill have stopped.

After firefighters initially responded on Nov. 16, they aggressively worked to contain the fire to keep it from spreading into nearby residential neighborhoods. They then covered its smoldering remains with dirt.

This is the scene that faced firefighters early on at the landfill

In the meantime residents near the landfill reported that smoke from the site had aggravated allergies and respiratory conditions.

Officials said even with the fire essentially over, residents may continue to notice a smoke odor and haze for an extended period of time.

Spontaneous combustion is the process where waste material is heated by chemical oxidation via biological decomposition to the point of ignition. This type of rapid oxidation is directly related to the amount of moisture present in the landfill.

Here is the full Facebook posting by the Barrow County Fire Department:

We’ve had a lot of questions, so here is a synopsis of the latest update on Highway 11 Inert (organic material) fire:

Last week, we ceased continuous operations and our on-site Command Post was terminated. The fire department has been conducting an hourly fire watch since last week. You will continue to notice a smoke odor and haze in the area for an extended period of time.

Further, the property owners continue to work diligently to mitigate the current situation by conducting fire watch and implementing a Corrective Action Plan. Again, there is no set timeline for full compliance based on weather conditions and equipment appropriations.

**Note: The cause has been determined to be the result of spontaneous combustion which is the occurrence of fire without the application of an external heat source. When entrapped heat can’t dissipate, it ignites.

An odor and haze from the landfill fire are expected to linger

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