ROCKPORT — Rockport Fire Chief Jason Peasley is crediting Sargent Corp., which has been onsite working a construction project at the Mid-Coast Solid Waste Corp. transfer station, with making the job of putting out an underground landfill fire a lot easier Monday morning.
Firefighters were called to the transfer station’s landfill pile, at the back of the facility, where flames and smoke had been seen.
Peasley said that a Rockport police officer arrived first, and confirmed the fire, verifying a 10-foot-by-15-foot area of fire. Rockport Engine 21 and a few other trucks arrived on scene, and Peasley said they initially went through their booster line with 750 gallons of water.
“We went through that and hadn’t even made a dent yet,” said Peasley. “So I saw Sargent was on scene with an excavator and asked if they would bring it over to help dig up the pile and find the fire, and they did.”
Peasley said once the excavator broke down through, he realized it was a much bigger fire, about 15-feet around and 20-feet down.
“A hole straight down,” said Peasley. “We ended up going down about 30 feet to get it all.”
Peasley said after the excavator dug down about 30 feet, it immediately started picking up the pile and spreading it out, so they could douse it with water. Once a pile was extinguished, it was put back into the hole, until it was all eventually put back together.
Peasley said that in addition to water, they used foam to finally put out the fire. They eventually pulled a third line and ran it out to Union Street, where they were able to hook onto a hydrant.
“We went through 9,000 gallons of water with 13 guys working for 2-1/2 hours,” said Peasley. “But super big kudos goes to Sargent right now, because if they weren’t there to help, we would have been there much longer. It made a huge difference. Ten of the guys who responded are self-employed, and we could have waited two hours or more for another excavator to get here, if Sargent hadn’t already been here and been willing to lend a hand.”
Peasley said he estimated the fire had been burning for a good five or six days before it broke the surface and was seen by a passerby, or maybe someone at the adjacent Penobscot Bay YMCA.
“There were logs in the hole that had burned through, which tells me it had been burning a long time,” said Peasley.
He also said that due to the large amount of water used, and the fact it was used on the debris pile and will have soaked into the ground, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection would be called about the incident.
MCSWC is closed on Mondays, but Sargent Corp. is on scene today working on the quarry project that began earlier this fall.
Peasley said that while he was glad Sargent was on hand, he was happy the facility was closed to the public, which made for an easier time focusing on the fire and moving trucks and water lines around.
Around this same time 13 years ago, Rockport firefighters dealt with a stubborn fire at the landfill Nov. 28, 2003. That fire ended up being approximately 70-feet in diameter and was burning around 10-15 feet underground. It took nearly a week to finally call it “out,” but within the first 24 hours more than 30,000 gallons of water were poured on it to get it under control.
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