Garbage fire sparks inquiry

Posted: Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The Kenai Peninsula Borough solid waste department is trying to determine what caused an early morning fire Sunday at the Sterling solid waste transfer site.

Central Emergency Services responded about 1 a.m. and extinguished the fire, but not before it destroyed the $20,000 D&L Construction Co. trailer, which was filled with trash. No injuries were reported.

The source of the fire is unknown, according to Solid Waste Director Catherine Mayer, but she said she suspects something deposited into the 45-foot trash trailer caused it. Vandalism also is a possibility, she said.

"The only thing that would lead us to that suspicion is it was in the middle of the night," Mayer said Tuesday.

After the damaged trailer was removed, the Sterling facility was reopened for business.

Mayer said her department has experienced vandalism-caused fires in the past, including a fire at the Kenai transfer station in 1996, a fire in the newspaper recycle bin behind the borough office building in Soldotna within the past two years and repeated recycle bin fires at the South Peninsula transfer site at McNeil Canyon.

CES Fire Marshal Gary Hale said the cause of trash site fires is difficult to determine due to the variety of items tossed into the Dumpsters and trash collection trailers.

"Those are the hardest fires to investigate because of the nature of what's thrown in there — ashes, cigarette butts, household cleaning supplies," Hale said.

"Disposal of (prohibited) flammables at solid waste sites has become a problem," Mayer said in a printed statement.

"Last week a fire occurred at the central peninsula landfill as a result of a large volume of matches that had been deposited in the Kenai Transfer Facility trailer and dumped at the landfill."

She also said a fire at the Kenai site in October was caused by the disposal of an unknown flammable material or chemical.

People using the borough trash transfer facilities are not allowed to dump items such as matches, cigarette lighters, lit cigarettes, fire starters or ashes from wood stoves unless completely cooled.

Other flammable items, including chemicals, paints, flares and petroleum products, should be taken to the hazardous waste disposal facility at the borough's landfill south of Soldotna.

Questions about what may and may not be deposited in the transfer stations should be directed to the Solid Waste Department at 262-9667.

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