It’s believed an oily rag may have ignited some wood at the Scotch Line landfill, resulting in a July 2 fire that spread to 3,000-square-feet.

Minden Hills fire chief Nelson Johnson said the fire was reported to them about 7 p.m. and they left the scene about 9:30 p.m. last Thursday.

Johnson said the fire was in the construction and demolition, or C&D, pile, mostly containing wood.

Johnson said they initially responded with one fire truck and three members of the department. However, they were unable to get through the gate. Although they had a key, the lock would not open. They had to remove the gate.

He said once they got in, they quickly established their water supply with another 11 firefighters arriving on scene. He said the Dysart fire department was called in to help. He said in addition to water, they used some foam.

Johnson said they utilized a portable monitor so they could throw a lot of water at the fire fast, from a distance. They then used an excavator to check for hot spots.

While he didn’t specifically know the cause, he suspects a chemical reaction of some sort in the heat.

Director of public works, Travis Wilson said C&D waste can sometimes cause a fire, especially with the very hot and dry conditions the township has experienced.

“Typically, what happens is somehow an oily rag finds its way into somebody’s load of C&D. They tip it at the landfill into another large pile of C&D. It is near impossible to spot one oily rag in hundreds of cubic meters of C&D,” Wilson said.

“With the rag buried in the pile, they can spontaneously combust, which can go on for days or weeks. Once it has burnt off enough product for ample amounts of oxygen, it will then turn into a fire,” he said.

He said, luckily they had their excavator on site and the operator was able to assist the fire department by moving the materials around.

“Our fire chief determined that the fire had started near the center of the pile, so the above theory matches what was seen on the ground through his investigation,” Wilson said.

Wilson added that to give the public a further idea of how long it had likely been smouldering within the pile, the landfill was closed July 1 and they only had three visitors who hauled in C&D on July 2, so it could have been smouldering for at least two full days.

Wilson said approximately 345 cubic metres of C&D waste was burnt.

He said as per their Environmental Compliance Approval, they notified the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.

Wilson credited Johnson and his team for doing “a great job getting on site and extinguishing the fire.”

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