Firefighters spray the trash fire that started early Saturday morning at the tipping area of the Pockwood Pond dumpsite. (Photo: GIS)

Early Saturday morning, garbage caught fire in the tipping area at the Pockwood Pond dumpsite, but the blaze was brought under control before it damaged the buildings or other infrastructure in the area, according to the Department of Waste Management.

“The fire was likely caused by older garbage heat which came into contact with combustibles,” DWM Director Marcus Solomon said in a press release issued Saturday. “The combustion of the materials could be heard on the site and spread to the entire garbage load, which fuelled the quick acceleration of the fire.”

On Monday, Mr. Solomon told the Beacon that a series of combustions within the trash heap were still audible when he arrived on the scene at 5 a.m., about an hour after the fire was reported to the DWM.

The blaze spread to the area of the nearby BVI Electricity Corporation plant, but no damage was reported there or at the incinerator building adjacent to the tipping site. The flames were brought under control after officials received early-warning notifications as the result of new protocols put in place by the DWM, according to the press release.

Trash overload

Mr. Solomon blamed the fire on an overload of trash that has built up in the tipping area in the absence of a functioning incinerator.

The Pockwood Pond incinerator has not operated since it was damaged by a fire in February 2022, and it is not expected fire up again until next spring.

The Saturday press release cautioned residents to avoid unnecessary smoke inhalation while the fire department continued efforts to extinguish the remaining flames.

Identify, extinguish Mr. Solomon explained that the DWM’s new protocols utilise a fire classification system.

Minor, non-threatening fires are categorised as level one, he said. Level two fires have the possibility of spreading, while level three fires are likely to spread elsewhere.

“If a fire is assessed to be a level three fire that is occurring, the site supervisor will immediately alert the deputy director of disposal and myself, the director,” Mr. Solomon said. “So in this case, that was done.”

Level one and two fires do not require notifying the director’s office, he said, though the deputy director must be alerted.

Mr. Solomon attributed this classification system to the speed with which fire officers were able to respond to the incident and subsequently bring the blaze under control.

The director, who said he was there an hour after the flames erupted from the trash, said Monday afternoon that the trash fire had been brought down to a level one.

“The flames are low, meaning it’s impenetrable,” Mr. Solomon told the Beacon. “It’s not at the top of the surface. We have to cut; we have to spread the garbage and get to those areas. That is when you’ll see that it’s still burning at the bottom a little.”

Dumpsite open

The Saturday press release stated that the Pockwood Pond dumpsite was closed to any more trash until further notice.

Mr. Solomon, however, told the Beacon on Monday that all normal function of the site had been returned, though the original tipping area was moved to a new, temporary location.

For the time being, he added, the DWM would prefer for residents to reduce strain on the temporary tipping area by driving to the top of the hill to dump their trash if possible.

“We are allowing you to go up to the top to dump your waste,” Mr. Solomon said. “Because the road network is in the state that it is, the garbage compactors that we presently use are unable to go up to the top themselves.”

However, he said, garbage collectors were notified Saturday that they could continue to collect garbage and deposit the waste at the temporary tipping area.

Additionally, Mr. Solomon urged residents to watch what they toss.

“What we want to … encourage citizens to do is, where you have flammable stuff — example, your gas canisters, even your oil — that we are asking that you please start to separate from your regular garbage,” the director said. “If you like, you can safely drop it by one of the public bins, but we prefer that you make the transport to Pockwood Pond; you declare your flammable items to us so that we can separate those flammable items.”