The fire at the Iowa City Landfill continues to burn over an approximately 7.5 acre section of the City's newest landfill cell. While the intensity of the fire has diminished over the last few days, City officials believe the area will continue to burn into next week. It is estimated that the equivalent of nearly 1.3 million tires are burning in the 7.5 acre fire area.
Protecting the health and safety of the public and workers onsite continues to be the number one priority for the City and all cooperating agencies. Also of primary concern is keeping the fire from spreading to adjacent landfill cells and to a portion of the new cell that was successfully isolated in the days following the fire's ignition. As weather conditions permit over the next several days, crews will begin to remove the over two hundred truckloads of shredded tires that were successfully isolated.
While the primary strategy remains to allow the fire to self-extinguish, the Fire Department continues to test various extinguishing methods including the use of various specialized wetting agents and burying the smoldering tires with ground cover. The effectiveness of these techniques, as well as the environmental ramifications of applying them to the entire 7.5 acre site, will be carefully reviewed before any larger-scale extinguishing efforts are pursued. The Fire Department has sought out and is applying methods and techniques for shredded tire fires that have been documented by the United States Fire Administration, which is an entity of the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency.
City officials also continue to focus on containment of the runoff created by the burning tires. As the tires burn, they produce an oil-based liquid that is being captured in the landfill's drainage system. This runoff is being safely captured and temporarily stored on-site as City officials, in cooperation with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, identify external facilities that are equipped to process this material.
The Johnson County Health Department continues to monitor air quality in the region and offers the following precautions to the general public:
Persons in the path of the smoke plume should avoid exposure to the smoke as much as possible. Persons who have respiratory, heart or other conditions which may be aggravated by smoke, pregnant women, and the young and elderly should shelter in places with outside sources of air shut off. Most home air conditioning units recirculate air from the interior and should be sufficient. Businesses and other structures which draw in outside air should close outside air sources if the smoke plume is present. Avoid outdoor activities such as exercising if the smoke plume is present. Nursing homes, day cares and other businesses which care for the elderly, very young, and persons with respiratory diseases should take special care to monitor the health of clients and to minimize exposure to the smoke plume.
Household refuse collection continues to be uninterrupted by this incident. Residents are encouraged to follow normal protocols for placing trash and recyclables at the curbside for pickup. Access to the landfill is limited to municipal and commercial haulers, as well as contractors with construction waste.
More information on the status of the fire is available on the City's website at www.icgov.org. On that website there is a continually updated Frequently Asked Questions section and copies of media releases. A photo gallery will soon be posted. The public can also track the event through Facebook by linking through the City's website or searching for Iowa City Landfill Fire. Updates are also available on City Channels 4 and 5.