ROCKLAND, Maine — It took firefighters more than eight hours and 180,000 gallons of water to quell a blaze Saturday at the city landfill.
The underground fire had been smoking for a couple of days, said Assistant Chief Ken Elwell of the Rockland Fire Department, but the Maine Department of Environmental Protection advised firefighters to get a big excavator to dig it out before trying to extinguish it.
The fire was burning about 20 to 25 feet underground in the city’s solid waste facility, a quarry off Limerock Street.
About 5:45 a.m. Saturday, a man driving by called to report he could see flames at the quarry. The Fire Department had been fielding multiple calls about the smoke there beginning Friday afternoon, Elwell said. He described the fire as smoldering in a quarry used to dispose of building debris.
“When he reported the flames, we went up and started putting water on it,” the assistant chief said.
Four of the city’s firefighters began working at 6:21 a.m., and the excavator operator arrived at 7:30 a.m. with the heavy machinery, Elwell said.
“He would dig it out and throw it off to the side, we’d wet it down,” he said.
The crews monitored the air quality in the quarry, making sure it did not have dangerous levels of hydrogen sulfide gas and carbon monoxide, he said. They cleared the scene at about 2:45 p.m.
The Fire Department has “no idea” how the fire combusted, Elwell said.
“That thing is constantly decomposing. It probably will be forever,” he said.