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New Stump-Dump Plan Is a Better-Burning Fire

Because no one can pump enough water to extinguish the smoldering underground fire, getting it to burn more and smoke less is the new strategy.

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CLAYTON, N.C. — The Triangle collected a bit more than an inch of rain overnight, but it did nothing to dampen the fire burning since Monday in and under a yard-waste dump in Johnston County. Firefighters are implementing a new plan.

Because the 1 million gallons a day of water that they have been pumping into the stump dump has had little or effect, officials think the answer may be to burn the buried material hotter and faster and with less smoke.

Friday, crews using power shovels began digging a 10-foot-deep hole and hoped to spread the fire to that hole, which would then act as a chimney and shoot the smoke up. Like a fireplace drawing well, that might make the fire burn faster and cleaner and without smoldering so much.

Heavy smoke and occasional poor air quality in the area have been the primary concerns since the fire began with spontaneous combustion in the buried logs and other material.

If the chimney plan doesn't work, officials said, they'll keep pouring water on the fire with the mechanical, unmanned system they have been using.

Johnston emergency management officials said Thursday that the fire could burn for weeks before running out of fuel if they can’t either put it out or use up the fuel faster. In some places, there is waste 70 feet deep to feed the fire, they said.

The landfill owner, Stump Dump Inc., has refused to have a representative speak with reporters.

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources had cited the dump in December for how much waste it accepted and how it was covered, and the facility off Loop Road was to have been re-inspected this week.

The state has been monitoring air quality in the area for carbon monoxide levels, and some area residents now are wondering if the fire and the water being pumped into the ground will affect nearby wells.


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