‘If you look down in there you see a roaring fire’ – county emergency over landfill fire burning since November

Published 7:07 am Wednesday, January 4, 2023

A county commission on Tuesday declared a state of emergency regarding an underground landfill fire that has been burning since November in Alabama.

The St. Clair County Commission voted to approve the emergency declaration, news outlets reported, in order to take more aggressive efforts to combat the fire at a private landfill. Commission Chairman Stan Batemon told news outlets that the declaration gives the county the legal and financial authority to combat the fire.

The underground fire was reported in late November at the privately operated Environmental Landfill near the Birmingham suburbs of Moody and Trussville. The site was used to dispose of vegetative material such as leaves, limbs, trees, shrubs and similar materials.

Residents in multiple neighborhoods have reported being bothered by smoke from the fire, and some said they are frustrated by the lack of action.

“I’m just so dismayed that this has drug out. We’re now at 48 days, I believe if the count is right, of this burning. It appears that nothing has been done at this point,” Dianne Kovacich of Trussville told WBRC-TV.

County Attorney James Hill said state or federal funds will be needed to address the fire, al.com reported.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management said in a news release last week that the vegetative landfill is not subject to state regulatory oversight or permits because the landfill is not authorized to accept household garbage or hazardous waste. The agency said it has connected the commission with private companies that have expertise in dealing with underground fires.

Batemon told al.com that the size of the area where the fire is burning is about 25 acres (10 hectares) and 100-feet (30-meters) deep in some places.

“It kind of reminds me of Yellowstone,” Batemon said. “You walk around on it, and there’s fume holes, there’s cracks in the ground, and steam and smoke coming out of it, and if you look down in there you see a roaring fire.”