Published Aug 25, 2014
One of the biggest problems with un-recycled tires is their potential to start tire fires. Tire fires are unlike other types of fires. Read on to find out what makes them different, and why we should do everything in our power to avoid them.
Tires have to be heated to at least 752 degrees Fahrenheit in order to ignite, so these fires are usually the result of arson or industrial accidents—unless a tire spontaneously combusts. Spontaneous combustion is possible in tire chips or tire crumbs (used tires that have been broken down by certain types of machinery) because they have a large exposed surface area with plenty of permeability to air flow. In such conditions, rapid oxidation can occur, which may lead to the material spontaneously catching on fire (source: hse.gov.uk).
When used tires are sent to a waste pile, the threat of a tire fire will be present. Once one tire ignites, the others will soon follow suit.
Two of the characteristics of tire fires that makes them different from other fires is how easily they spread and hard they are to control. These fires can occur in one of two ways: either they burn fast and out of control, or they burn slowly and last a long time—anywhere from a few days to years (source: web.archive.org page 39).
Water and foam are usually useless in extinguishing this type of fire, but water is often used to wet the surrounding tries to keep them from catching fire. If possible, crews try to remove the remaining unburned tires before they can become additional sources of fuel.
The best way to control a tire fire is to smother the flames with dirt or sand, which crews dump using large machinery. As with any fire, controlling it is a dangerous task. Tire fires are even more of a threat, because firefighters can’t stand a safe distance and shoot a high-powered stream of foam or water.
Tire fires are not only easily spread and hard to extinguish: they also create a large amount of pollution. Scrap tires themselves are not hazardous waste, but tire fires create waste that officials consider hazardous. Some of the negative impacts a tire fire can have on the environment include:
- Tires produce oil when burned. This oil gets into the ground and will seep into any ground water in the area. The oil itself is highly flammable,
- Tire fires produce thick, black smoke. This smoke contains pollutants including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, benzene, phenols, butadiene, and styrene. These are all toxins that get into the air we breathe.
- After the fire runs its course, it leaves behind charred remains that take a lot of time, money, and resources to clean up.
After learning more about tire fires, it is not hard to see the importance of recycling scrap tires. Do your part in preventing tire fires and the damage they create by recycling any tires you no longer need.