x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Smoke plumes from fire at Jebel Ali landfill site

Piles of rubbish including paint cans and boxes of what appears to be insulation smoulder, but Dubai Municipality said the materials were not hazardous.

A two-day-old fire continued to burn late Saturday afternoon at the Jebel Ali Waste Treatment Complex.
A two-day-old fire continued to burn late Saturday afternoon at the Jebel Ali Waste Treatment Complex.

DUBAI // Thick plumes of smoke yesterday billowed from a fire at a Jebel Ali landfill site, which a witness said had been burning for two days.

The fire broke out at a Dubai Municipality site off Exit 13 at Freezone South .

"It is under control now. The smoke will still be seen for some time but the fire was put out today," said Abdul Majeed Saifaie, the director of the municipality's waste management department.

The National visited the site yesterday morning but found no security in the area.

"The fire has been going like this for two days," said a man who was working at the site.

The landfill is shielded from view by walls of sand but the air around it was thick with light-grey powder.

Containers were strewn around the area between pools of oil.

"Most landfills go on fire because of the methane and the weather has been very hot," Mr Saifaie said.

"People do not need to worry. We have procedures for this. The fire itself is out. It is the smoke they can see."

He said the fire was extinguished with sand rather than water, which is routine municipality procedure.

There were hundreds of boxes ripped open with what appeared to be insulation material surrounding the site yesterday.

There were also piles of rubbish, some of it including partially burnt containers of paint and other possibly toxic items, all around the area.

But Mr Saifaie said the burning material was not classified as hazardous waste, which was stored separately.

"It is when the temperatures are hot any small burning particle will start a bigger fire," he said.

"It takes one or two hours to put out but the smoke continues for many hours after."

The amount of waste produced in Dubai more than doubled to 10,000 tonnes a day in 2009 from 4,000 in 2004, it has been reported.

That puts a huge strain on landfill sites.

Peter Chatham, the business development manager for the UK consultancy and brokerage Waste Check, said the soaring heat and a combination of chemicals were the major factors in landfill fires.

If it was a solvent paint, which is flammable, it would depend on the levels in the paint, Mr Chatham said.

"I couldn't see a problem but in heat of 40°C [solvent paint] will be expansive and it will ignite, and anything else in there for oxidising with any addition of caustic materials, you'll have a pretty big fire."

To extinguish the fire, Mr Chatham said, fire services would have to know what type of chemical was burning.

"It depends on the chemicals … each one would have a different type of compound," he said. "Some would need sand, others need foam."

An operator at the Dubai Civil Defence emergency line said workers had received a number of calls from the public about smoke being seen in the area. He said it was a municipality dumping ground where there were occasional fires but crews would not be sent out.

"That's a municipality dumping ground and if they are burning something there, it's not something we would send someone to," he said.


* With additional reporting by Eugene Harnan