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Setback: Fire flare-ups as workers clear Cox Heath dump

Puffs of smoke were observed rising from various hot pockets at the Cox Heath dump yesterday, June 13. (Photo by Esther Durand/BVI News)

By Esther Durand, BVI News Staff

Roughly a week after the Cox Heath dump was deemed fire free, authorities responsible for compacting and clearing metallic waste at the site have faced yet another challenge – ‘hot pockets’ still smouldering beneath layers of debris.

These pockets have led to a number of spontaneous fire ‘flare ups’ when workers attempt to dig through the debris to clear the site.

General Manager at the Department of Waste Management, Greg Massicotte told BVI News on Wednesday (June 13) the discovery has now set back clean-up operations at the de facto dump.

He said on-site heavy equipment operators are now being extremely cautious and have scaled back the sorting process.

“We had about four machines digging into the pile and now we only have one,” he said, adding that the depth at which the equipment had been digging through the pile has had to be reduced.

Heavy equipment being used to clear debris at the dump.

Cox Heath a hurricane hazard, clearing imperative

Despite the setbacks, Massicotte said clearing the site is still paramount because the 2018 hurricane season already has begun.

“We needed to rid the site of items that can become airborne — in case of a major hurricane — as quick as possible,” he explained.

“But, at the same time, we have to be mindful of the re-ignition and eventual smoke that can occur and ultimately affect the people in close proximity of the site. The internal fire would eventually die … But, no one truly knows how long that would take because we are talking about over 130,000 cubic yards of compacted debris.”

Fire beneath can take up to a year to fully extinguish

Chief Fire Officer Zebalon McLean said, had the debris been left undisturbed, the remaining underlying fire would have died out on its own.

However, he suspects complete extinguishment could take at least a year.

On the other hand, Chief McLean said leaving the underlying fire to extinguish on its own could cause contamination of water supply.

While explaining how flare-ups are caused when the piles of debris at the dump are disturbed, Chief McLean said: “By pulling the material out from the dirt to make sure it gets crushed, the little bit of smouldering underneath would cause re-ignition once it came into contact with the air.”

Fire department still monitoring

Despite handing over the dump to the Department of Waste Management, fire officers still visit the site to perform daily checks.

He said the daily assessments are important and allow his department to respond quickly, should the fire re-ignite.

According to McLean, the last report submitted Wednesday morning indicated there was smoke escaping beneath the debris. However, there were no flames at the time.

The fire chief also said the smoke “dissipated as quickly as it rose.”

He further said small amounts of smoke remain in the immediate area but does not affect residents in the neighbouring communities.

The major Cox Heath fire that raged at the dump took close to four weeks to extinguish. The blaze is referred as one of the biggest dump fires on record.

Copyright 2018 BVI News, Media Expressions Limited. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

10 Comments

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  1. No nonsense says:

    All involve in that fire now think God sleeping…! The transporting barge for the easy already sorted metal will be delayed for the collection. Look how dem want to kill out the people in the 1st just fo a few pennies. Who say Hitler dead, he and his counter parts are right here among us. And dem sitting in high places… MR. GOVERNOR, THAT FIRE AND MOTIVES NEED TO BE INVESTIGATED BEFORE THE EVIDENCE LEAVES THE BVI ON THAT BARGE. The fire chief is not experience enough!!!

    6+

    • Poor we says:

      100% Agree. The truth is that fire never completely out a day since it started. The very day it came over the news that the smoke ceased, it was bellowing over the hills into West End Community. As I speak, it is a bit more contained, but still burning. To this day, we are still forced to breathe in all that mess. This is what I call sufferation!!!!

      5+

  2. Soothsayer says:

    The fire was extremely convenient if you only want to take scrap metal…

    7+

  3. the fire was never out says:

    Don’t understand the fire brigade stopped fighting the fire as there was still smoke coming out of there.

    There was smoke but no longer fire? Come one people. Keep fighting the fire until it is out completely!

    5+

  4. Sam the man says:

    Get some competent people in not the BVI fire service – they lazy from sitting playing dominoes all day – can’t even repair their own work facility ! Ensure and Hardy would perform more professionally here ! Such weak excuses to fail for over a month now to extinguish a fire in a relatively small footprint!

    4+

  5. froggy says:

    Try to work with no roof over your head and no proper equipment to accomplish your main tasks. Please give them a break

    1+

    • Walterene says:

      Poor we I agreed with your comment.

      The fire chief has joined the groups of living a lie.

      I will like him and others in authority to spend a few minutes, a day or a night in the Western and North Western side of the Island. We are not getting any fresh air. To get fresh air one has to go out of these areas. I am beginning to get worried about our health. Most often my chest begins to tighten and hurt from the scent of burnt metal and other toxic gas which made me feel like I am going to suffocate.
      I am just disgusted and tired of the whole situation. It is like no one is taking this situation seriously despite the complains.

      God is our refuse and strength a very present help in trouble. I prayed that this plague has not come to wipe out the West and North western side of Tortola.

      2+

  6. Plague says:

    People is not taking heed to things.After the hurricane that nearly wipe us out people went right back to there nasty ways if not worse.keep it up people, the next one is going to wipe us out.Cox Heath dump is going to continue burning for a very long time.Feel bad for the people who lives in that area.

    1+

  7. lol says:

    The grammar is so poor on here boy….

    0

  8. Pompey says:

    Paging…….whey yuh deh…..ringing……oh yuh away….keep calm carry on…..just more condolences gonna be upcoming in the HOA to residents and families….

    1+

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