CEBU City’s sanitary landfill in Barangay Inayawan caught fire and spewed thick smoke that lasted for more than 11 hours since yesterday dawn and continued until yesterday afternoon.

At least 3,000 square meters of piled dump were burned.

The 150,000-square-meter Inayawan landfill carries more than a million tons of garbage collected from households and business establishments in Cebu City since 1998 when it was built. It has been shut down since January 15 this year, 10 years after after it was designed to be closed.

SFO3 Pier Angelo Abellana, investigator of the Pardo Fire Substation, said they received the alarm at 4:52 a.m.

They called substations in Cebu City to ask for help in pumping water into the scene.

Fire trucks came and took turns in dousing the fire, Abellana said.

However, the larger fire trucks could not get into the area because of the narrow road. By then, thick smoke had spread.

Although the smaller trucks managed to stop at the foot of the mountains of garbage piled up in the landfill, they could not reach the fire scene, located some meters away.

The firemen had to connect hoses so water could reach the site. The flames were put out at 3:27 p.m.

Abellana said that as of 4 p.m. yesterday, the fire had burned at least 3,000 square meters of trash.

The blaze hit the landfill eight days after some 320 individuals were forced by the Cebu City Government to move to safer ground.

The Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction Council (CCDRRMC) had recommended the transfer of the families living within five to 15 meters from the garbage heap. 

The authorities fear that the mountain of trash will collapse during heavy rain and bury or damage the houses, or people can die and get buried under the garbage. 

While the firemen were busy putting out the fire, at least three scavengers, who were holding a sack each of garbage, were searching through the junk where smoke had started to spread.

Abellana said that somebody could have thrown a lighted cigarette that started the fire.

But none of the garbage boys said anything about it, he said.

The City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CCDRRMC) then recommended that the landfill be placed under a state of calamity.

Mayor Michael Rama, who checked the landfill early morning yesterday, said situations like fires have to be addressed by the disaster management council.

City Councilor Dave Tumulak, CCDRRMC presiding officer, said he will submit to the City Council on Monday a draft resolution, endorsing the CCDRRMC’s recommendation to place the landfill under a calamity state.

This way, the City Government’s resources can be used to address the problem at 15-hectare facility, which has been closed from all forms of dumping since January 15 this year.

In his regular news conference yesterday, Rama said he wants the methane content of the landfill assessed given the searing temperatures because of a mild El Niño.

Tumulak said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Science and Technology will do the assessment.

The mayor also asked the City’s Department of Engineering and Public Works (DEPW) and the Dakay Construction and Development Corp. to send heavy equipment to the landfill and make firefighting more efficient.

Dakay Construction, he said, had helped the City when fire broke out at the landfill for several weeks in 2009.

DEPW Chief Engr. Jose Marie Poblete said heavy equipment such as bulldozers and backhoe can help firefighters put out the fire.

Rama formed yesterday a multi-sectoral group to help address the fire at the landfill. It is composed of DEPW, Dakay, the Solid Waste Management Board, the Bureau of Fire Protection and the barangay, among others.

Rama said it was timely that the City had moved the 70 plus families living near the landfill.

“It has lessened our concern,” he said.

Meanwhile, a house in Sitio Ubca, Barangay Quiot caught fire at 1:21 p.m. yesterday.

Raganas told Sun.Star Cebu that the fire could have been caused by the faulty electrical wiring of a television cord.

The house was owned by Lydia Martinez, a former barangay councilwoman of the place.