SCHOOLS near New England landfill site, were forced to close on Friday due to the smoke that came from the municipal dump site that was on fire. The fire started on Thursday afternoon and the fire fighters managed to extinguish it over the weekend. The cause of the fire remains unclear.Areas around Pietermaritzburg as far as Ashburton and Edendale were covered in smoke resulting in people struggling to breathe.Johan Langeveld, an Ashburton resident told Maritzburg Fever that the smoke was so bad that they couldn’t see the N3 from Lions Park off-ramp to Ashburton. “It was completely dark with no clean air to breathe. The black smoke just covered everything. Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Siyabonga Hlongwa said on Friday that the fire was being extinguished. “The Msunduzi Municipality Fire Department and local fire fighting services led a process of extinguishing the fire, however windy conditions made it difficult to complete the task successfully.“The cause of the fire is unknown. It is currently impossible to give estimates of the damage caused, but we can confirm that currently no lives have been lost,” said Mhlongo.Mhlongo said the municipality ensured that the schools near the site were notified on Thursday as the fumes could be toxic. “The municipality would like to apologise for the inconvenience and possible damage caused by the fire at the New England Road landfill site. “Our sympathies are expressed to all those who have been affected.”However, while fire fighters were trying to extinguish the fire it was business as usual for the people who collect bottles, cardboard and paper to sell. One person, who was collecting stuff to be recycled said they want to save as many bottles and as much plastic as they can before they are burnt as their livelihood depends on it.“The fire started yesterday [Thursday] and today [Friday] they still trying to put it out. We are trying to get everything we can before things are totally damaged so we can sell what we find and get something to eat, because we have to survive on the money we make [from this site],” he said.In the mean time residents have initiated a petition to have the dump site closed.