Now more than ever, tire recycling is extremely important. Not only do we do our part for the planet by recycling something that would otherwise be left in a landfill, but by not recycling tires, we are opening our environment up to extreme harm through the detrimental effects of pollution from tire fires.
There are two types of tire fires, both of which have negative effects on the environment. The first type of fire is a slow burning fire, otherwise known as pyrolysis, which can burn for over a decade. While the vapors from the fire can be used to produce power or liquid fuel, the fires are difficult to extinguish and can produce large quantities of smoke. This smoke often carries toxic chemicals.
The second type of fire is the fast burning fire, which is the more dangerous of the two. With a fast burning fire, there is an almost immediate loss of control. Extinguishing an out of control tire fire is extremely challenging and dangerous. The smoke from the fire is incredibly thick and contains carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and other harmful elements. And even if a tire fire is extinguished externally, it often is not extinguished internally, meaning the fire could easily reignite at any time.
Some of the most notable tire fires have happened in the last 30 years.
Heyope fire of 1989 – Located near Wales, Heyope experienced a tire fire involving more than 10 million tires. The fire burned for at least 15 years. The tires were packed together so tightly that, while the flames were extinguished, temperature readings continued to show intense heat below.
Hagersville Ontario fire of 1990 – 12 to 14 million tires started this fire. The fire burned for 17 days and forced more than 4,000 people to evacuate their homes. Even after the fire was extinguished, the smoke damage caused many home to be torn down and families to relocate. Once the fire was extinguished, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment worked to clean the underground water sources that were contaminated from the fire.
Kirby Tire Recycling facility fire of 1999 – Located in Ohio, arsonists ignited 25 million tires on fire. The fire burned for more than 30 hours. In order to get the fire out, hundreds of fire fighters, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio National Guard all provided assistance. Once the fire was controlled, it was extinguished in part by covering the fire with dirt. The environmental damage was so significant that the EPA provided mass amounts of cleanup efforts in the area.
Tire fires are more dangerous than many realize. Recycling scrap tires is one of the best ways to avoid tire fires and protect our environment.