- Crews have been working since the evening of Dec. 8 to put out a fire in the storage pit of the Montgomery County Resource Recovery Facility in Dickerson, MD, as reported by The Washington Post.
- Firefighters initially dealt with a pile of waste that was 85 feet high and have since managed to contain the fire after pulling off parts of the building for more access. The fire's cause has not been reported.
- The county is diverting commercial waste to a separate facility as it expects fully extinguishing the fire could take "several more days." Residents have also been advised that they may still see smoke in the area.
Sunday Update - RRF Dickerson, MCFRS FFs continue firewatch, monitoring & containment working w/ DEP & facility mgt on protracted incident pic.twitter.com/ifHGtL53rL— Pete Piringer (@mcfrsPIO) December 11, 2016
This site, currently run by Covanta, processes an estimated 1,600 tons of material per day. The facility has won awards from both SWANA and the EPA in recent years for the quality of its operations.
While the fire's cause remains unknown one possibility is that a customer included a hazardous item in their waste. This is a frequent problem, as Rumpke's Cincinnati facility has had to call firefighters at least six times this year, often due to flammable lithium ion batteries. Earlier this fall six Waste Management employees in California were hospitalized after they were exposed to leaking tear gas cannisters.
Fires are a fairly common occurrence at waste facilities, though no official numbers are maintained to track them. Data compiled by the company Fire Rover suggests there could be as many as 1,500 waste facility fires in the U.S. and Canada on an annual basis. Raising awareness about these incidents can help educate customers about the importance of separating hazardous items and help facility operators take more preventative measures.