Saturday, February 13 at approximately 8:00 pm it was discovered a brush pile had spontaneously combusted at the City of Hartselle Landfill. The brush pile consists of limbs, pieces of trees, small brush, etc., which is picked up from homes in the City of Hartselle or brought into the landfill by citizens of Hartselle.
Also, the landfill is not on fire, just a pile of brush.
All the material in the brush pile is all natural.
Normally the material is ground into mulch periodically during the year.
However, in this instance the material combusted internally during normal chemical and physical breakdown.
As soon as the fire was detected Hartselle Public Works and Hartselle Fire & Rescue began the task of limiting the exposure of the fire and began the process of extinguishing the combustion.
With the fire being internal, spraying water on the burning material would not help the situation.
The Alabama Department of Environmental Management was notified of the fire and information was shared as to what was being done to extinguish the fire.
An ADEM representative has been on site and offered suggestions and both Public Works and Hartselle Fire have been following the recommendations to solve the issue.
With the burning beginning internally, the temperature has been extremely high, and caution and safety must be practiced by both Public Works employees as well as Hartselle Fire personnel.
Following advice from ADEM City employees began pulling small amounts of the smoldering and burning brush and debris from the burning pile with a track hoe, a piece of heavy equipment which runs on tracks and has a large scoop on the front.
Water was then applied to the burning material to extinguish the hot material.
Also, a retaining pond has been dug around the burning pile so that any water is retained and does not cause a runoff issue, as well as a silt fence, all recommended by ADEM, has been placed around the areas.
Work continued last week and this weekend with the same process taking place, with the addition of using a dozer to move the material and allowing the track hoe to move more of the material from the brush pile. Hartselle Fire & Rescue also was using a fire engine to increase the amount of water that could be used on the fire.
One of the issues continues with the extreme heat of the brush, as the material is pulled out the scoop on the track hoe must be cooled down with water very often to keep it from overheating. The scoop is digging directly into the burning material.
Weather conditions last week made the process slower as well. Also, with the damp, rainy and humid air around Hartselle the smoke hovered closer to the ground. On the days the sun was shining the smoke went straight up into the air and was dispersed instead of staying lower to the ground.
The process that was begun last week continues, slow as it might be progress is being made.
By the end of this week City employees feel the fire will be much more manageable and hope to have it completely extinguished by the end of next week.
Again, all the material is completely natural and with the weather conditions today again the smoke tends to hover instead of dispersing into the atmosphere.
Hartselle Public Works and Hartselle Fire & Rescue have worked endless hours from the time the fire began and continue doing so, making sure they stay safe as well.
The process is slow, but the task will be completed. Some of what is thought to be smoke is steam from the process of extinguishing the material as well as the rain falling on the material which increases the amount of smoke.
The City of Hartselle Administration has been aware of the situation and has closely monitored it since the fire began on February 13.
The City of Hartselle Administration and employees certainly understands the public concern over this matter, but all can be assured that the landfill itself is not burning and no hazardous materials are involved. As stated, this only involves the brush pile, which consists solely of all-natural plant material and which is in its own separate area away from all other materials. The City is not ignoring or failing to take action to manage this situation, and is acting diligently, but prudently, in resolving the situation with the guidance and advice of ADEM, which was notified promptly of the situation, and will continue to do so.
“As to the future, the City has recently budgeted , purchased, and and is installing a state-of-the art air curtain incinerator for disposal of such materials, which will not only dispose of these materials in a manner friendly to the environment, but extend the service life of the landfill significantly. The air curtain incinerator has also been approved and permitted by ADEM.”