County landfill fire a close call

Cortez firefighters put out a fire in the hopper where trash is compacted at the Montezuma County Landfill Tuesday morning. Lewis-Arriola and Towaoc assisted on the call. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Cortez firefighters put out a fire in the hopper where trash is compacted at the Montezuma County Landfill Tuesday morning. Lewis-Arriola and Towaoc assisted on the call.

Combined chemicals in a load of trash likely triggered a smoky fire at the Montezuma County landfill Monday night.

Luckily minimal damage was done to the $1 million hopper where the fire started, said landfill office manager Rachel Abeln.

“It burned some paint off, and we did not lose any equipment,” she said.

Cortez, Lewis-Arriola, and Towaoc fire departments responded to the fire, which was reported on Tuesday morning after smoldering all night. Sixteen firefighters were on the scene, and Southwest Memorial sent an ambulance. There were no injuries.

“There was a lot of heavy smoke in the building, but no structural damage to the building,” said Cortez Fire Chief Jeff Vandevoorde. “There was trash on fire, and bales were dismantled to put it out.”

Abeln said it is illegal to dispose of chemicals into the garbage. She said the landfill is conducting an investigation into the origin of the chemicals. It could not be determined if it came from commercial or a private landfill customer.

“We ask them if there are chemicals, and have the sign a waiver that there are none in their load,” she said.

Controlled burns becoming uncontrolled have been keeping fire crews busy, Chief Vandevoorde added.

“It is so dry out there, they are getting away from people,” he said.

It is recommended that landowners contact dispatch at 565-8441 before starting a controlled burn.

Trash is pulled out from the compactor area and dumped outside so firefighters can make sure the landfill fire is completely out. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Trash is pulled out from the compactor area and dumped outside so firefighters can make sure the landfill fire is completely out.