The Ritzville Adams County Journal - Eastern Adams County's Only Independent Voice Since 1887

By Al Stover 

Commissioners receive update on truck, transfer station fires


Last updated 8/9/2018 at Noon

At the Aug. 6 meeting, the Adams County Commissioners received updates on the two fires involving Public Works property.

One of the incidents related to a semi-trailer transporting municipal solid waste that had caught fire in Boardman, Oregon, on July 31. The other was an Aug. 5 fire at the Bruce Transfer Station that destroyed the recycling center.

Public Works Director Todd O’Brien said on July 31, crews were driving a semi-trailer to transport municipal solid waste to the Columbia Ridge Commercial Landfill, in Arlington, Oregon. During the trip, solid waste in the trailer had caught on fire.

O’Brien explained crews moved the trailer off Interstate 84 to the closest exit. The next day, Public Works hired a contractor from Spokane, who traveled to Oregon, and removed two-thirds of the waste to allow Adams County crews to move the trailer.

O’Brien explained Assistant Public Works Director Troy Barnes noticed smoke coming from the contractor’s trailer, which had county solid waste in it. Barnes climbed into the back of the trailer and removed a smoking piece of paper. The paper caught on fire and crews quickly extinguished it.

The contractors placed a tarp over the smoking waste in the trailer and drove it to the Columbia Ridge Commercial Landfill in Arlington. At the landfill, local firefighters extinguished the fire and crews disposed of the solid waste.

He added Public Works employees did not move the county’s semi-trailer, which had one-third of the remaining solid waste on it, because of the hot temperatures and 25 mile-per-hour winds.

In the evening, the Boardman Fire Department used equipment to ensure the solid waste was cool. Crews applied water on the waste, and transported it to the landfill where it was buried.

O’Brien said the semi-trailer is still at the landfill, and Public Works crews will retrieve it at a later date.

He added the semi-trailer was not at a total loss, and the department can replace the sides and top.

He also contacted two companies who brought loads of paper to the transfer station. O’Brien noted the paper was the same type as the sheet Barnes removed from the contractor’s trailer the day before.

O’Brien said he believed the paper could be an ignition source of the semi-trailer fires in Oregon.

He noted crews separated the paper from the rest of the waste on the tipping floor on Friday afternoon.

Adams County Facilities Manager Dennis Sackmann said Othello Fire Department was contacted about a fire at the transfer station on Aug. 5, at around 6:19 a.m., with the first fire truck arriving at 6:28 a.m.

O’Brien added the first firefighters to arrive had trouble accessing the property because a 4-yard box of cardboard was pushed up against the gate. A passerby helped move the box to allow firefighters to open the gate and access the property. Sackmann noted the box against the gate delayed the firefighter’s response time by about 1-2 minutes.

When firefighters entered the property, the fire consumed a nearby tractor and the recycling center.

O’Brien noted the cardboard box was left at the transfer station on Saturday evening. He said it was the first incident of a box of that size was left outside of the transfer station since Adams County took over the facility’s operation.

He added the facility’s security footage shows a John Deere tractor placing the box in front of the gate. O’Brien said the footage also showed the driver step out of the tractor to examine how close the box was to the gate. The driver moved the box closer to the gate.

He added the driver repeated the process three times until the box is close enough to the gate, then drove off in the tractor.

O’Brien said crews and firefighters used preventative measures for fire control during the incident, such as moving the garbage across the tipping floor.

Crews also applied water on top of cardboard to prevent fire from spreading it into other areas.

In addition to the fire at the transfer station, O’Brien noted Othello firefighters and Public Works extinguished a fire in a stubble field near the transfer station. Public Works crews put out a second fire in the field in the afternoon. He added a local farmer assisted the department by laying plow lines in the field.

O’Brien said Public Works is working with the Adams County Sheriff’s Office to investigate the incident, and the fire’s origin.

As for the damage, O’Brien said the recycling center was lost, as was the equipment inside of the facility, which included a skid steer, a compact baler and the baler and conveyor system.

As a result of the fire, O’Brien said the department does not have a place to store recyclable cardboard. He added Public Works planned to rent out a semi-trailer and transfer the cardboard to the WestRock Recycling Center in Vancouver, Washington.

He explained the department had a setback in the process on July 20. A semi-trailer was traveling on White Pass and had tipped over, spilling 34 loads of cardboard onto the road. The department requested a cleanup crew from the Washington State Department of Transportation. After crews cleaned up the scene, the salvageable cardboard went back to the Bruce Transfer Station.

As for operation, he asked the commissioners for a consensus to close the Bruce Transfer Station to the public until Aug. 10. O’Brien said the facility can accommodate small commercial solid waste during that time. He explained closing the transfer station to the public would allow crews time and space to remove debris.

As for the future, O’Brien said he will meet with Public Works employees to discuss future operations, and ways to prevent another fire.

One option would be to identify and separate flammable solid waste brought to the transfer station. Another idea is to not accept municipal solid waste that is flammable.


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