Underground fire at landfill requires equipment rental | NevadaAppeal.com

Underground fire at landfill requires equipment rental

Terri Harber
Appeal Staff Writer

The city plans to step up its efforts to contain a fire that has been burning underground at the landfill now that the fire season has ended.

City supervisors are being asked Thursday to approve rental of a bulldozer to extinguish an underground fire that has burned slowly for years under a section of the Carson City Sanitary Landfill.

It’s highly likely the fire has been smoldering since 2001-02, when the city started taking control of the facility on 7001 Highway 50 East, said Fire Chief Stacey Giomi.

“It’s burning slow because it’s not getting a lot of air,” Giomi said. “It doesn’t matter when it started, the issue now is that we have to put it out.”

That it’s getting air at all might be why the fire lives on. The city and Waste Management Inc., the previous operator of the landfill, worked to stop the fire when it was discovered a few years ago. It was believed these efforts were successful.

Smothering the fire by putting a lot of dirt on it is how workers attempted to stop this fire – and it’s the preferred method – but the earth used was too rocky. This might be why air has been getting to the location and feeding the fire, which is 40 to 50 feet below ground but above much of the debris dumped there during the years, Giomi said.

The city informed the state of smoke rising from the ground again this spring. Because the area where it’s burning only contains such materials as wood and concrete – the section devoted to construction waste – it’s not considered an environmental hazard, said Dante Pistone, spokesman for the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection.

Air monitoring showed the smoke wasn’t that heavy and only contains hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide.

“Right now, the environmental impact is pretty innocuous,” he said.

Firefighters, however, still will need to be careful because the ground might be unstable and once the ground is broken the fire could rapidly gain strength or release a copious amount of smoke.

The city has been pouring water into the ground to stop the fire since it was rediscovered earlier this year but this effort hasn’t been successful. Workers have cordoned off the area of the landfill since someone noticed smoke rising so people using the landfill won’t wander around there. Thermal imaging is being used to see the heat being generated but opening up the ground will be the only way to see how extensively the fire has burned, Giomi said.

Why the fire started originally is unknown.

Rental of the dozer will be roughly $18,000 a month plus more than $9,000 to get it here and return it to a company in Newark, Calif. Payment will come from the landfill.

The city seeks to have it put out before the fire season is declared next spring.

Carson City Public Works took charge of the property in 2001 and expects it to be a viable dump site until 2056 – if carefully managed. When it was privately run, the facility was expected to be filled before the end of the decade, according to City Manager Linda Ritter.

If you go

What: Carson City Board of Supervisors meeting

When: 8:30 a.m. Thursday

Where: Sierra Room, Community Center, 851 E. William St.

• Contact reporter Terri Harber at tharber @nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111, ext. 215.