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Tire fire erupts in Pa.

April 09, 1999|By DON AINES

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - A fire that erupted in a pile of up to 2,000 tires early Thursday in Montgomery Township, Pa., drew firefighters from a dozen companies in three counties and prompted an environmental warning.

Units from Franklin and Fulton counties in Pennsylvania and Washington County, Md., responded to the fire at 4886 Rice Hollow Road.

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The fire was called in at 5:36 a.m. The last units left the scene more than 10 hours later but returned at about 5:50 p.m. when the fire rekindled.

Mercersburg, Montgomery Peters and Warren Fire Chief Nick Barbuzanes said when firefighters returned, the fire was smoldering but there were no flames and it was quickly extinguished.

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Linda Jackson said she was awakened Thursday morning by booming noises outside her mobile home next to the dump.

"It was blazing big time, and the smoke was rolling," she said. A neighbor called the fire in, thinking it was a mobile home fire, according to 911 center records.

On Thursday afternoon, Barbuzanes stood at the edge of the ravine where the fire had broken out.

"They were going off when we first got here," he said, pointing to gas cylinders and propane and gas tanks mixed among the tires, roofing shingles and other debris.

"Just the foam alone is going to be thousands of dollars," Barbuzanes said. Dozens of plastic containers of fire retardant were scattered along the edge of the ravine.

The land is owned by John Jackson and his sons Jerry and Richard, according to Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Sandy Roderick in Harrisburg.

"This site would be considered illegal disposal of tires," said Stephen D. Bartos, a solid waste specialist with the Department of Environmental Protection's district office in Chambersburg.

Tires are supposed to be sent to state-approved shredding facilities, Roderick said. She said the department will send a team in Monday to determine the extent of environmental damage.

The fire involved an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 tires, she said.

Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal Trooper Skip Sydnor interviewed members of the family to determine the cause of the fire. Family members said there was open burning of trash nearby some days before the fire.

During the morning, thick gray-black smoke rolled out of the ravine. By afternoon, when firefighters were hosing down hot spots with foam, the charred remains of hundreds of tires could be seen, mixed with roofing materials and other debris.

A bulldozer and crane were digging tires out of the ravine and covering them with dirt.

"That's the only way you get these tire fires out. Dig them out and spread them out," said Franklin County Emergency Management Coordinator Denny Monn.

Shortly after the fire was reported, the Emergency Management Agency put out an alert advising residents with respiratory problems to keep their windows closed.

Monn said the advisory was issued because of calls received by the 911 center from nearby residents asking about the smoke.

Monn said petroleum-based fumes from a fire involving tires could cause respiratory irritation. The problem was alleviated in the afternoon when the smoke began to dissipate.

There were no evacuations, according to the 911 center.

Barbuzanes said some firefighters were treated for cuts, but there were no heat exhaustion or smoke inhalation cases.

A creek running through the ravine was dammed downstream to prevent oil and other toxins from the burning tires from reaching the Conococheague Creek, Barbuzanes said.

Monn said the underflow dam was made to allow water to flow through a pipe while contaminants collected on the surface are drawn off.

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