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Arson blamed for dump fire

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“How is the Sol Plaatje Municipality allowing this to happen - the entire town is now inhaling toxic fumes,”

TOXIC: A massive plume of black smoke hovered over parts of the city yesterday after a fire broke out at the Kimberley municipal dumping site. The fire started at the sites tyre dumping area at around 11am, when a heap of hundreds of tyres was apparently set alight by arsonists. The fire department was on the scene and extinguished the blaze. Picture: Danie van der Lith

A FIRE that broke out at the Kimberley municipal dumping site yesterday left a thick black plume of smoke hovering over the city and raised concerns about toxic fumes being released into the atmosphere.

The fire started at the site’s tyre dumping area at around 11am, when a heap of hundreds of tyres was apparently set alight by arsonists, according to the Sol Plaatje Municipality.

The fire department arrived on the scene at about 11.20am and managed to extinguish the blaze, which had also spread to the surrounding veld, by about noon.

A massive plume of black smoke rose from the fire and could be seen from several kilometres away. Strong winds blew the plume of smoke over the city, raising concerns among residents about the toxicity thereof.

At the dumping site, however, recyclers did not seem concerned and stood straight in the path of the smoke as they watched firefighters drench the heap of burning tyres.

“How is the Sol Plaatje Municipality allowing this to happen – the entire town is now inhaling toxic fumes,” one concerned resident said yesterday.

Sol Plaatje Municipality spokesperson, Sello Matsie, responded by confirming that the fumes from the fire did indeed contain toxic carbon monoxide that could be “problematic if inhaled”.

He further slammed the alleged arsonists who started the fire, requesting residents to refrain from burning tyres.

In 2016, the Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa (Redisa) submitted an application to the South African Heritage Resources Agency for the development of a waste tyre depot in Kimberley. The city was identified as one of 150 across the country where such depots would be developed and waste tyres would be collected from around the Province.

According to the application, the depot would involve the delivery of waste tyres, which will be offloaded, stacked and stored in demarcated areas.

It was pointed out in the application that waste tyres were disposed of at landfill sites where they take up valuable space.

“Tyres are also stockpiled or dumped in residential, rural and industrial areas across the country. Current statistics indicate that of the 11 million tyres sold in South Africa annually, approximately
270 000 tons of these become waste tyres. Some tyres are recycled, however, many are disposed of through burning, which releases oils that seep into the ground, as well as toxic gases such as carbon monoxide into the atmosphere.

“In some rural areas, waste tyres are also burnt to generate heat, especially in winter months, resulting in health risks to those inhaling the resultant fumes.”

The recycling of waste tyres was identified as one way to eliminate these problems.

At the time of the application, it was pointed out that Redisa’s aims were in line with the plans detailed in the Sol Plaatje Municipality’s plans for promoting economic development through environment and waste management-related activities. However, the initiative has still not been implemented in Kimberley.