MCSW reopens Dec. 7

UPDATED: Firefighters from five towns battle Rockport landfill fire

By Kim Lincoln | Dec 06, 2016
Courtesy of: Kim Lincoln Firefighters from the five fire departments extinguish a fire at Mid-Coast Solid Waste Dec. 6.

Rockport — Firefighters had used upwards of 60,000 gallons of water by 1 p.m. Dec. 6, on the second day of extinguishing a fire in the landfill at Mid-Coast Solid Waste Transfer Station — and it was still burning.

About 25 firefighters from Rockport, Camden, Rockland, Lincolnville, Hope and officials from the Maine Forest Service continued to battle the blaze with the help of two excavators.

Rockport Fire Department was initially called to the landfill at about 6:45 a.m. Dec. 5 when a fire broke out in a demolition debris pile on the back, right side of the buildings, Fire Chief Jason Peasley said.

About 13 firefighters responded to the initial call and were on the scene about three hours. On Dec. 6, crews were called back in at about 7 a.m.

Although Peasley said fires in the landfill are not uncommon, he said this one was quite significant and may have been burning for a week or more before it was discovered.

Jim Guerra, manager at MCSW, said he has informed the Department of Environmental Protection about the dumping of the water because it is an “operational anomaly.” He said the landfill has a well that pumps water to the treatment plant and there is some concern with dumping that much water into the quarry, but said the good news is the water levels are at a historic low because of below average rainfall this spring and summer.

However, he said, generally DEP would only be concerned if it expanded beyond the landfill property, which it is not.

On Dec. 5, an excavator owned by Sargent Corp., that was at the site due to construction of a subsurface dam between the north and south quarries, was used to remove several feet of debris from the pile so crews could get to the source of the fire, Peasley said. Having the excavator right on site was a tremendous help in fighting the fire; without it, they would have had to wait until one was called in, he said.

A second excavator, from Ferraiolo Construction in Rockland, was brought in Dec. 6 for additional help to continue to stir the pile while fire crews douse it with water, Peasley said.

The fire burned initially burned about 30 feet deep and was about 15 feet in diameter. The chief said the fire was started by spontaneous combustion and oftentimes fires of this type are started by a small lithium battery or an oil-soaked rag that heats up and eventually catches fire. On the second day, he said they were digging 20 feet down and every 10 feet they moved left or right, there would be more fire.

Guerra said he is convinced landfills are always on fire and there is always the question of whether to smother it or to chase it and since the fire appeared on the surface of the pile the morning of Dec. 5, the decision was to chase it. However, he said, when you open up a pile like that, the exposure to oxygen causes it to flame up.

Guerra said there was a subsurface fire at the landfill about two years ago and this past August, in a different part of the landfill, he noticed puffs of smoke coming out of a pile, but the decision at that time was to cover it and smother it.

Peasley said water supply lines had to be run from a hydrant near the gatehouse to the fire.

Mid-Coast Solid Waste is normally closed on Mondays and the decision was made to close it on Tuesday after the fire rekindled.

Courier Publications Editor Kim Lincoln can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at

Area firefighters work to extinguish a fire at Mid-Coast Solid Waste in Rockport. (Photo by: Kim Lincoln)
Rockport firefighters set up another hose to fight a blaze Dec. 6 at Mid-Coast Solid Waste. (Photo by: Kim Lincoln)
Firefighters from five towns use several hoses to put out a fire in the landfill. (Photo by: Kim Lincoln)
Rockport Fire Chief Jason Peasley directs a second excavator on where to dig Dec. 6 during the second day fighting a blaze in a demolition debris pile at Mid-Coast Solid Waste. (Photo by: Kim Lincoln)
The fire burned about 30 feet into the debris pile. (Courtesy of: Rockport Fire Department)
An excavator from Sargent Corp. is used to dig through the pile and locate the fire. (Courtesy of: Rockport Fire Department)
Rockport firefighters, with the help of an excavator from Sargent Corp., work to put out a fire in the debris pile Dec. 5. (Courtesy of: Rockport Fire Department)
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