Englewood fire burned an estimated 1,000 tons of trash and 100 tons of recycling

Fire burned June 27-28 and caused fallen power line, structural damage, two injuries

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An estimated 1,000 tons of trash and roughly 100 tons of recycling burned during an overnight fire in Englewood that began June 27 at a WM, formerly known as Waste Management, site at 2400 W. Union Ave., said WM communications professional Anne Spitza.  

The site, a transfer station,  is where collected solid-waste materials are temporarily stored, Spitza said in an email. From this transfer station, recycling is transported to a sorting facility in Denver and trash is moved to the Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site landfill. 

The Denver Fire Department received reports of the fire at approximately 5:39 p.m. July 27, said Greg Pixley, a Denver Fire Department assistant chief and public information officer. Because of the wind, the fire spread to other trash, overwhelming facilities, Pixley said.

Smoke from the fire spread throughout parts of the Denver metro area the morning of June 28, and the Englewood Police Department warned residents about air quality in a tweet that stated, in part, "The smoke that you see and smell this morning throughout much of the metro area is from this incident. The air quality is currently poor, so please take care." 

It took until about 3 p.m. June 28 to put the fire out, Pixley said.

“These type of fires are time-consuming, and even though it is just trash, to get water on all areas of the fire to ensure extinguishment is difficult because of the multiple layers and piles,” Pixley said. “That’s the difficulty in trash fires, is just trying to get water to all sides of this material to extinguish any sparks or embers.” 

To fully put the fire out, the fire department had to use heavy equipment to move the trash to expose the smoldering pieces to as much water as possible, he said. 

“We just can’t go in there and spray water on it like a house fire and then have it out right away," Pixley said. "When you have that enormity of trash and refuse, it takes a period of time to get it all extinguished. Depending upon what people throw away in their trash is oftentimes going to be what is burning."

Plastic materials burn at a higher temperature and produce a greater amount of heat, causing a greater likelihood for the fire to continue to burn with more energy, he said. 

“It looks like there was a mixture of materials that were burning that day, that created that tremendous amount of heat,” he said. "Oftentimes, we see a lot of black smoke that is generated … because of the plastics in there and the materials that are synthetically based or petroleum-product based.”

The fire also impacted two structures containing electrical equipment that was exposed to the fire, Pixley said. 

“And that is possibly the reason why we also could have seen some black smoke,” he said. “Cause that was a tremendous amount of smoke, and we know it burned through the night and then affected the neighborhood and downtown Denver, for that matter.” 

The fire also affected power lines. During the initial stages of the fire, a smaller supply line failed and fell on top of a truck, he said. There were also high tension power lines in the area, which have a tremendous amount of electricity and posed a potential danger. 

As a result of the power lines, for a period of time, as wind blew, the firefighters were unable to access part of the fire, he said. 

To ensure everyone’s safety, the fire department worked with Xcel Energy. The firefighters waited until Xcel Energy confirmed the power was shut off for the area and it was safe to proceed. 

Due to the fire, there was significant damage to two nearby structures, Pixley said. Spitza said damage to the structures is still being evaluated by the engineering team. 

“We know that fire produced a great deal of heat, not only because of the damage that was created, but because of the smoke that was produced,” Pixley said. 

The fire resulted in two injuries. One worker was injured and evaluated by Denver Health Paramedics, either prior to or during the arrival of the Denver Fire Department, Pixley said. The status of that worker is unknown, he said. The other reported injury was a twisted knee by one of the firefighters working the scene. 

Determining the cause of a fire like this can be complicated, Pixley said. 

“We are not going to spend a great deal of time investigating what caused this,” he said. “But we will work to see if we can determine if there was maybe a malfunction or something like that, and that is, to this point, has not been determined yet.” 

The greatest likelihood is that an errant spark, a cigarette butt or ash that was inside the trash was the cause of the fire, Pixley said. If people forget to take precautions such as making sure their cigarette butts are fully out or that their charcoal from a patio grill is completely extinguished, trash fires can result.

Englewood, Fire, Waste Management, Denver Fire Department

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