Tire fire still burning at Minto, NB recycling plant a week later

A fire at a tire recycling facility in Minto was still burning on Friday, one week after it started, but emergency officials said progress was made toward finally putting it out.

Geoffrey Downey, a spokesperson for New Brunswick's Emergency Measures Organization, said about a quarter of the original fire was still burning on Friday.

"Given the kind of progress they've been making in the days before, hopefully it'll be out soon," he said.

The TRACC tire recycling plant caught fire on Dec. 20. Over the last week, firefighters have been dousing the flames with sand to "bury the fire."

Not considering health effects yet

This will clear out the oxygen and get the fire to stop burning.

Downey said it's impossible to predict the fire's long-term health consequences.

"We'll have to wait and see what's in the smoke," he said. "We'll have to see what precautions people took. Fighting any fire is always dangerous. It doesn't matter what kind of fire it is. There are always risks and implications."

The last bucket of sand was to be dumped on the fire by Saturday, he said.

"Within 24 hours they should have brought in enough sand to bury the fire."

Kevin Nicklin/Facebook
Kevin Nicklin/Facebook

About 22 dump trucks were delivering sand from a pit a couple of kilometres away to help extinguish the fire, and the operation in Minto was far from over, Downey said.

"This is going to carry on for a little while."

'It's all burning'

Crews were still carting tires away from the fire Friday and placing them on the opposite side of the street. An air quality and water advisory remained in effect.

TRACC, which stands for Tire Recycling Atlantic Canada Corp., processes about one million tires each year. Downey wasn't sure how many tires had burned in this fire.

"The assumption is that it's all burning," he said.

"At this point it's been going long enough, it seems very unlikely that there was any portion of it that hadn't caught fire."

He said some of the tires that didn't catch fire had been moved away from the site. There was also some damage to the building.

Houses in the area had not been evacuated as of Friday.

Factors in mandatory evacuations

Jamie Hiller, spokesperson for the Fire Fighters Association of Ontario, said there are many factors that go into a mandatory evacuation during a fire.

For instance, officials look at weather conditions, the time of year, temperatures and the proximity of homes to the fire.

"Displacing a whole community in the middle of winter over Christmas, that's very difficult in itself," Hiller said.

If an air and water quality warning has been issued by the province, Hiller said it is expected people remain cautious.

But that's not always the case.

"People who don't use good judgment and want to go down and watch the fire, they're putting themselves at risk."

Submitted by Geoffrey Downey
Submitted by Geoffrey Downey

There have been a number of tire fires across North America over the years, including the 1990 tire fire in Hagersville, Ont., that burned 14 million scrap tires and spewed toxic smoke for 17 days.

"This fire is not as big as Hagersville. Hagersville was massive," he said.

"Hagersville was mountains and mountains of tires."

When tires burn Hiller calls it a "hazardous material situation," because of the burning of rubber, as well as smoke floating in the air.

"You breathe those fumes in, they can contain cancer-causing chemicals," he said.

Downey said it's too early to draw comparisons with Hagersville.

"Once we are in a position to start doing more testing and some analysis then maybe you can draw some comparisons between the two, but it's certainly too early to do so right now."

The tire recycling centre already has an environmental consultant on scene doing short-term assessments of water, soil and air quality to see how widespread the environmental damage might be.

The consultant is using air-quality monitors and booms in the ditches to start sampling the soil and runoff, and it's doing sampling of residential wells as well.