Historic blaze fueled a boom in tire recycling, advances in fire monitoring

Oct 30, 2013

An historic tire fire 30 years ago that blazed on for nine months in the northwest Virginia Appalachians, releasing giant plumes of toxic smoke, sparked a recycling revolution and advances in fire-monitoring methods. The fire's environmental legacy is the topic of the cover story in Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society.

Stephen K. Ritter, C&EN senior correspondent, explains that the massive fire left firefighters and government officials at a loss. They considered how to use every conceivable firefighting tool at their disposal to battle the unprecedented blaze, but they could see nothing was going to work. The fire had to burn itself out, creating an environmental disaster. When burned, tires release a number of harmful compounds, crude oil and metals that can be toxic to aquatic life. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency added the site to its fledgling Superfund program, which aims to remediate an array of hazardous waste sites. About 20 years and $12 million later, the site was officially declared remediated.

In the meantime, use and disposal has only grown, but scientists, entrepreneurs and environmental managers have made considerable progress to stanch the rubber waste stream. About 45 percent of tire waste is now destined for shredding plants and is repurposed as mulch for playgrounds, fill material for road construction and plastics. Some of it helps power cement kilns and paper mills and is used to generate electricity. Chemists have also been inspired to find sustainable ways to reuse the rubber in old tires to make new ones rather than rely on virgin rubber. In addition to advancing tire recycling, the historic fueled progress in air monitoring techniques that help and local governments track pollutants from fires, and model and predict how blazes will behave in order to put them out faster.

Explore further: NASA image: Rim Fire update Sept. 9, 2013

More information: "Tire Inferno" cen.acs.org/articles/91/i43/Tire-Inferno.html

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Hertz to recycle all its tires

Nov 06, 2012

Do you have any idea what happens to the tires when you junk your car? I didn't think so. What about the 1.2 million tires on the 300,000 cars that are in the Hertz rental car fleet at any one time? I didn't think you had ...

A new genre of tires: Call 'em 'sweet' and 'green'

Dec 14, 2011

Motorists may be driving on the world's first "green" tires within the next few years, as partnerships between tire companies and biotechnology firms make it possible to produce key raw materials for tires from sugar rather ...

NASA image: Rim Fire update Sept. 9, 2013

Sep 09, 2013

Inciweb.org updates the Rim Fire with this information: "Firefighters will face continued hot and extremely dry conditions. Shifting winds coupled with low humidity will provide conditions for active fire ...

NASA image: Rim Fire update—Aug. 30, 2013

Aug 30, 2013

Update for August 30, 2013 - The fire is over 201,00 acres as of 6 am this morning, Aug. 30, 2013 with containment at 32%. More than 40,000 acres of that fire have burned within Yosemite National Park. At ...

NASA image: Rim Fire in California

Aug 26, 2013

The Rim Fire began in California on August 17, 2013. The cause of the fire is still under investigation. This fire is treacherous and has tripled in size in the last few days to now over 106,000 acres. The ...

NASA image: Fires in China Oct. 18, 2013

Oct 18, 2013

Shuangyashan is a coal mining prefecture-level city located in the eastern part Heilongjiang province, People's Republic of China, bordering Russia's Khabarovsk and Primorsky krais to the east.

Recommended for you

More, bigger wildfires burning western US, study shows

15 hours ago

Wildfires across the western United States have been getting bigger and more frequent over the last 30 years – a trend that could continue as climate change causes temperatures to rise and drought to become ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Six Nepalese dead, six missing in Everest avalanche

At least six Nepalese climbing guides have been killed and six others are missing after an avalanche struck Mount Everest early Friday in one of the deadliest accidents on the world's highest peak, officials ...

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

There's something ancient in the icebox

Glaciers are commonly thought to work like a belt sander. As they move over the land they scrape off everything—vegetation, soil, and even the top layer of bedrock. So scientists were greatly surprised ...

Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

Up to now, HONO, also known as nitrous acid, was considered one of the most important sources of hydroxyl radicals (OH), which are regarded as the detergent of the atmosphere, allowing the air to clean itself. ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...