PENSACOLA, Fla. (WALA) - A smoldering landfill fire near Pensacola should be contained Wednesday night, January 23, but the county health department has maintained a health advisory for area residents. They said it will likely be in effect until Thursday afternoon when a planned inspection will take place.
"When we arrived on site there was a lot of smoke, a lot of flames, vision was poor," said Director of the Escambia County Solid Waste Management Department Pat Johnson.
The county arranged for nearly 150 truckloads of dirt to be brought in and used its own heavy equipment to smother the flames.
"We had a few hotspots, we're working those hot spots, putting them out. By the end of today, we should be 100 percent contained," said Johnson.
Residents living near the privately owned Cove Landfill said visible smoke and the smell of burning debris seemed to fill the area Tuesday.
It was huge," said Ensley resident Bobby Ray.
He described the smoke filled air on Tuesday as dark brown and black in color.
The Escambia County Health Department issued its advisory Tuesday afternoon based on a visual assessment of the area.
They said smoke is a respiratory irritant that can cause a scratchy throat or irritated eyes and nose. They also said smoke can worsen conditions such as asthma or other chronic lung infections.
"It got to where I could smell it in the house," said Ray.
The Cove Landfill receives land clearing debris from construction projects - material like trees and brush.
Heavy equipment that normally packs the soil and keeps the decomposing matter from becoming exposed to the air broke down.
"With natural decomposition the heat it generates, at times oxygen will become a factor and it could spontaneously combust and that's what happened here," said Johnson.
A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said the Cove Landfill is operating under its general permit. Florida DEP is investigating the fire, but it is too early to say whether any action will be taken.
Florida DEP performs annual inspections at landfills. The Cove was checked in July 2012 and was in full compliance with the DEP's guidelines.
The air around Ensley on Wednesday was clear with no noticeable odor, but the County Health Department's advisory remained.
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