UP IN SMOKE

A FIRE engulfed a local landfill on Wednesday night, igniting rubbish that could have burned "for years" - and might still be smoldering underground.

Firefighters were called to the Redhill Road Landfill at 6pm, driving eight fire engines to the tonnes of junk that were well alight.

Local Fire and Rescue Captain Don Smyth took the lead, with Rural Fire Service (RFS) crews from Boara, Young, Maimuru and Wambanumba called in for support.

"We had trouble at first, because there's no water in the immediate vicinity," he said. "So, the fire was able to get a firm grip before we were able to get to work."

Young Shire Council general manager Peter Vlatko was also in support, directing other council workers to block vehicle traffic on Jasprizza Avenue.

"An enormous number of people were going up to stickybeak," he said. 

"Unfortunately, that created a large amount of traffic.

"And when firefighters connected their pump to the [water] mains, we couldn't have people driving over their hose. It just got out of control, unfortunately," Mr Vlatko said.

Now connected to the mains, firefighters had to relay water from pump, to truck, to pump, through hose, to the firefront.

RFS District Manager for the Southwest Slopes Andrew Dillon said this was one of the critical tasks his firefighters performed.

"A lot of technical skill was displayed by firefighters to relay water and provide adequate water pressure to fight the fire," he said.

And it was in the maintenance of water pressure that Council lent another hand.

Mr Vlatko said the fire engines were sucking too much, too much too fast from the town's mains, sapping water pressure from firefighters at the front.

"We had to ensure the pressure was kept up in the pipes," he said. "Unfortunately, we did have to turn some of our residents' [water] off last night, because it was more important to get water to the fire."

Council also contributed two excavators to the fight, the first set to work digging a channel of access to nearby pond water and cutting a trench to be flooded around the fire.

Water flowing, the excavators began dumping earth on the flaming mess to suffocate the inferno - and to stop it from spreading down below.

"The reason we needed the excavator is to make sure the fire didn't get underneath the stuff that was buried," Mr Vlatko said.

And if it did spread to the compacted rubbish, organised to some depths by layer of rubbish, then layer of dirt, then layer of rubbish, Mr Smyth said it could take far more than one long night's work to put the flames to rest.

"If the fire gets into the lower [layers of rubbish], it can burn for years," he said. "So that would be our first concern, to isolate the latest layer [of rubbish covered by dirt] to protect it from the flames."

While that may have been Mr Smyth's first, it was hardly his only concern.

The fires burned through metals, plastics and other materials that emitted a smoke suspected "toxic" and certainly responsible for the hospitalisation of one RFS volunteer.

"We had to be cautious," Mr Smyth said. "There were things like tailpipes from cars and aerosol cans, which will explode.

"There were things like gas cylinders that shouldn't have been put in the tip. There were a lot of tyres that shouldn't have been in the tip."

Mr Vlatko said the explosions would have been avoided if council policy had been followed.

"Gas bottles aren't allowed to be deposited there," he said. "Gas bottles, fridges - anything with a little bit of gas in it, it was going up in that heat.

"We can't control what's in every load and, therefore, it's one of those things where we have to trust that people bringing rubbish are not putting anything dangerous [in the landfill]."

If that wasn't enough to contend with, at around 10.10pm two RFS fire engines and five firefighters were called away from the landfill to a grass fire at Blackguard Gully Reserve.

While police are asking local teens about that fire, Mr Smyth said no "definite cause" had been found for the landfill fire and any investigation was unlikely to find one.

"There's nothing to investigate," he said. "Everything was spread out with the excavators. If there was any evidence, it would have been destroyed in that process."

Firefighters had the landfill's flames in hand by about 11.30pm, when many left for home.

Some RFS volunteers remained on-site until close to 2am, when it was left to council workers to keep an eye on the tip.

"We're going to be monitoring for quite some time until we're confident that it's not burning or smouldering underneath," Mr Vlatko said.

"We're going to have to wait until favourable weather conditions are in effect, so that we can then start opening [the landfill] up and making sure that it's completely harmless."

GREAT, BIG BURN: Firefighters tending to the flames at Redhill Road Landfill. (IMG_7849)

GREAT, BIG BURN: Firefighters tending to the flames at Redhill Road Landfill. (IMG_7849)

AWAKE LATE: The fire was fought into the night, with some still on-scene hours past midnight. (P11550055)

AWAKE LATE: The fire was fought into the night, with some still on-scene hours past midnight. (P11550055)

OVER: RFS Maimuru Fire Captain Frank Burns.   (IMG_7739)

OVER: RFS Maimuru Fire Captain Frank Burns. (IMG_7739)

RELAY-PUMPING: Local and Rural Fire Service firefighters pumped water to the firefront through a network of hydrants, trucks and hoses.             (IMG_7783)

RELAY-PUMPING: Local and Rural Fire Service firefighters pumped water to the firefront through a network of hydrants, trucks and hoses. (IMG_7783)

FLAMING RUBBISH: Firefighters found Redhill Road Landfill sprinkled with dangerous objects like gas cylinders, aerosols and more. 			          (IMG_7856)

FLAMING RUBBISH: Firefighters found Redhill Road Landfill sprinkled with dangerous objects like gas cylinders, aerosols and more. (IMG_7856)

FLAMING RUBBISH: Firefighters found Redhill Road Landfill sprinkled with dangerous objects like gas cylinders, aerosols and more. 			          (IMG_7856)

FLAMING RUBBISH: Firefighters found Redhill Road Landfill sprinkled with dangerous objects like gas cylinders, aerosols and more. (IMG_7856)

DIGGER: Excavators were used to suffocate the flames.         (IMG_7900)

DIGGER: Excavators were used to suffocate the flames. (IMG_7900)

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