California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

Fires at Solid Waste Facilities

Best Management Practices for Pile Fires

Best Management Practices (BMP) for All Pile Fires

Fire Prevention

The LEA can consult with the local fire department and develop site-specific size specifications to include in the solid waste facility permit for pile height, width, length, and total volume The specifications can also include set-backs and fire lane requirements. These requirements can be more restrictive than the Uniform Fire Code.

Operators and fire departments can conduct facility tours to discuss the fire prevention plan and review adequacy of access gates, water sources, and other site-specific factors. Operators can consult with the local fire department and prepare a site specific-fire prevention plan and then implement it.

Fire Suppression

Fire departments and operators can monitor the site of an extinguished fire for secondary fires. Hot embers deep within the ashes can rekindle a fire. The water used to extinguish a pile fire can wet another portion of the pile or other nearby piles, promote increased biological decomposition of this organic matter, and produce enough heat to create a secondary pile fire. The fire is not really out until it stays out for a week or more. In addition, it is important to note that fires set by arsonists can be reset at anytime.

The operator and fire department can conduct periodic facility tours to discuss fire suppression options including cooperative use of facility equipment and staff. Solid waste facilities often have “dozers,” “bucket loaders,” and other heavy equipment on-site that can be used to help suppress the fire.

BMPs for Transfer Station Buildings

Fire Prevention

Operators can use a load checking program to screen out flammable hazardous waste and “hot loads” that are often identified as the probable causes of fires at transfer stations.

Fire Suppression

Calibrate sprinklers to spray water or suppressant at temperature of smoldering fire not raging flame fire. Test sprinklers periodically.

The operator and fire department can conduct periodic facility tours to discuss fire suppression options, including cooperative use of facility equipment and staff. Solid waste facilities often have “dozers,” “bucket loaders,” and other heavy equipment on-site that can be used to help suppress the fire.

The fire department and the operator can agree to pre-position fire suppression supplies (for example, drums of foam) or equipment at facility to supplement material brought by first alarm fire fighters. One operator has a foam applicator probe and two (2) 55-gallon drums of foam stored at the transfer station. In case of a fire, the foam probe can be attached to facility heavy equipment and the fire suppressant can be injected deep inside the burning pile. This is more efficient than spraying water or foam on the surface of the burning pile.

The operator can train facility equipment operators in fire suppression tactics. One facility has trained its “dozer” operators to use SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus) and use “dozers” to move a smoldering pile to the outside of the transfer station where it can be spread and more efficiently extinguished. The operator can proactively respond before the fire fighters arrive and then can cooperatively assist.

BMPs for Composting

Fire Prevention Key Ideas

Prepare and follow a fire prevention plan that includes provisions for:

  1. Management of pile size of feedstock, composting material, and finished product.
  2. Monitoring and managing temperature and moisture content of piles to prevent spontaneous combustion and fire.
  3. Practical alternatives to control pile size when equipment breakdowns occur.

Fire Suppression Key Ideas

Monitor for secondary fires. The water used to extinguish a pile fire can wet another portion of the pile or other nearby piles, promote increased biological decomposition of this organic matter, and produce enough heat to create a secondary pile fire. The fire is not really out until it stays out for a week or more. In addition, it is important to note that fires set by arsonists can be reset at anytime.

Fires Home

Last updated: June 28, 2006
Fires at Solid Waste Facilities http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/SWFacilities/Fires/
Todd Thalhamer: Todd.Thalhamer@calrecycle.ca.gov (916) 341-6356