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Fire breaks out on surface of Bridgeton Landfill, takes more than two hours to put out

Flares at the Bridgeton Landfill are used to burn off smelly underground gases.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio
A surface fire broke out at the Bridgeton Landfill on Friday evening.

Firefighters in north St. Louis County extinguished a surface fire that occurred at the Bridgeton Landfill on Friday evening.

It took two and a half hours for crews from the Pattonville and Robertson fire districts to put out the fire, which began approximately at 5 p.m. Because gas from Bridgeton Landfill’s infrastructure kept refueling the fire, firefighters had to switch to a tactic that required increasing the water supply, said Matt LaVanchy, assistant chief for the Pattonville Fire Protection District.

The event alarmed nearby residents, who have been concerned about the underground smoldering fire at the Bridgeton Landfill for several years. The landfill is also adjacent to the West Lake Landfill, a Superfund site that contains World War II-era radioactive waste.

Read more: EPA approves plan to remove nuclear waste from West Lake Landfill after years of complaints

Members of local activist group Just Moms STL livestreamed their observations of the event on Facebook.

A cell phone livestream video of a fire being put out at the Bridgeton Landfill in November 2018.
Credit Dawn Chapman | Facebook Live
Local activist and Maryland Heights resident Dawn Chapman broadcasted her observations of the surface fire at the Bridgeton Landfill on Facebook Live.

“We will stay out here for as long as we have to, so that you guys see what’s happening and we can document this. Yes, we have masks,” said Dawn Chapman, the group’s co-founder. “This is a public-health emergency.”

Bridgeton Landfill officials shut off points of potential oxygen intrusion and the flare system that’s used to burn off gases, according to company spokesperson Richard Callow. The landfill’s air-quality monitors were operating during the surface fire event.

“The landfill team advises the surrounding community there should be a potential for off-site odor while site systems are inspected and repaired,” Callow said.

Landfill officials plan to conduct an inspection to find out what caused the fire.

Ask Curious Louis: What are your questions about the EPA's cleanup plan for West Lake Landfill?

Follow Eli on Twitter: @StoriesByEli

Eli is the science and environment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.