Fire at dump site can take a week to extinguish

2014-09-23 00:00

THE Msunduzi Municipal dump site in Lincoln Meade will take “two days or more” for the fire to be extinguished.

While inspecting the landfill site yesterday, chief of the Fire Department Billy Paton said a blaze at a dump site is very difficult to put out.

Toxic smoke from the smouldering dump in Pietermaritzburg has seen a marked increase in the number of people visiting pharmacies with respiratory problems.

Paton said they had a large area of fire to put out but the fire fighters did not have access to water, which is always a challenge at a landfill.

He said the strong winds, heat and dry conditions were not helping in getting the fire extinguished any quicker.

“We are using two municipal graders and water canons to help extinguish the fire,” he said.

For the many people making a living from recycling items from the dump, it looked as if the fire fighting was happening in slow motion.

Paton said a lot of time was spent waiting for the water canons to be refilled. He said it would take at least two days but maybe all week to put out this fire, as the flames were smouldering deep under the dump.

Paton said another delay was caused by the fire fighters only being able to work on the dump during the day, because at night the conditions are terrible.

Meanwhile, Duzimed Pharmacist Yunus Chottier said people suffering from respiratory problems visited his pharmacy, particularly on Friday and Saturday.

Chottier said the numbers subsided on Sunday, but they had treated between 15 to 25 patients.

“Patients arrived with burning red eyes, nasal congestion and heavy breathing from respiratory problems,” said Chottier.

ER24 spokesperson Werner Vermaak said fires are always hazardous, especially those at dump sites. “Due to the different materials being burnt and chemicals dissolving, the smoke may cause further harm, should it be directly inhaled,” he said.

He advised people who have to work in the area to wear face masks, and asked people who do not need to be in the area to stay away and let the fire fighters or emergency personnel do their work.

A concerned resident in Hayfields, Shelly Cochrane, asked if people should be allowed to live in shacks on top of the dump.

“They could so easily set the dump alight while cooking their food outside their shacks in very strong winds,” she said.

Cochrane also asked when the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry had last audited the dump.

“Why is absolutely nothing being done to stop this from happening again?” she asked.

Cochrane suggested business that lose revenue when a pall of toxic smoke hangs over the city bowl should sue the council every time the dump catches alight to encourage better management of the dump.

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