100,000 tires caught fire four miles from the nearest hydrant
When a pile of 100,000 tires catch fire in an arid climate such, the blaze will prove difficult to extinguish under the best of circumstances. When this fire broke out in Odessa, Texas on Sunday, April 9th, the nearest fire hydrant was located four miles away.
Try as the might, the volunteer firefighters responding to the call simply couldn’t bridge the distance between the water source and the fire, fighting a losing battle while thick black smoke continued to fill the air.
Speaking to local news team OA Online, West Odessa Volunteer Fire Chief Jimmy Ellis said that there was little his men could do aside from standing by and awaiting help from anywhere they could get it.
Not only was water scarce, but the nature of the burning rubber coupled with the magnitude of the fire made for an especially dangerous combination should firefighters approach it. “ We haven’t even been able to get down in the pit where it started because it’s so hot you can’t get down in that pit. The rubber just stays hot and it will adhere to your boots and the bunker gear,” he said.
In this instance and others like it, the EPA deploys teams, strategists, and equipment when the task at hand proves too great for the state or local resources available. Were it not for the EPA’s involvement in Odessa, the fire would almost certainly rage on until the fuel had been consumed, likely for days or even weeks.
The firefighters paired with Ector County civil services to create a “break” around the pit so that winds wouldn’t cause the fire to spread beyond the tires, but beyond that, there was little proactive work that could be done.
Two days later, help arrived as the Environmental Protection Agency formulated a plan. Three days later, on Wednesday morning, the federal agency went to work. According to this news report, the smoke and fire have been largely quelled, but as you can see, the smoke and toxic particulate remain in the city’s air.
It's not clear if the tires were situated on public or private land, but it's believed their storage was against regulation. Investigators are continuing to search for the landowners and/or culpable parties.