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Landfill Fires Intentional and Unintended

landfill fire deep seated anthracite basedLandfill fires have occurred within landfills throughout the world, and to this day much burning of waste on landfills takes place in many developing nations. We classify landfill fires into two types; intentional and unintentional.

Intentional Landfill Burning

Burning of municipal waste in the open is not recommended under any circumstances, although in some rural and isolated districts in the United Kingdom, the practice continued until the mid-1980s. The practice is also known to have been practised by the author in rural France as recently as ten years ago in the mid 1990s, where a rural household waste site was found where the operator systematically set fire to the piles of rubbish on a daily basis.

Such burning would reduce waste volume, however, the atmospheric pollution produced by such practices if indefensible on all but the very most low population areas, poorest economies and plastics free wastes.

The presence of plastics within waste when burnt at low temperatures in the open has long been known to produce hazardous chemicals such as dioxins , which are carcinogenic. Such burning can, as a result, never be condoned, and the EA prosecutes those who persist in open burning of waste.)

Waste burning in the open, and especially on landfills has been subject to a total ban on all European landfills since the Landfill Directive was first implemented in the 1990s. Furthermore, a no smoking ban has existed for many years on all EU landfills.

Unintentional Landfill Fires

Over the last few years anecdotal evidence suggests that there has been an increase in landfill fire occurrences in the UK.

It would seem likely that increasing emphasis on landfill gas generation and more highly optimised gas extraction may be leading to increased landfill fire incidences, due to the tendency for air to be pulled into the waste by the suction applied. Ingress of air may cause hot spot locations which then become fires.

The public should not be alarmed that these fires have occurred. The fires may be costly to the operator of a landfill, and although the fire may be quite difficult at times to extinguish, and can continue to burn for quite long periods, they are always very limited in extent within a modern landfill, and are not uncontrollable.

Landfill fire precautions, include:

  • Environmental monitoring
  • Landfill fire prevention by adoption of good operational practice and techniques.
  • Landfill fire control and mitigation strategies are available in the event of a fire developing, and remediation techniques are available for landfills, following a landfill fire.


We have experience of surface and deep-seated landfill fires at landfill sites.

Do you need advice on a landfill problem?

Contact IPPTS Associates via our Contact Us page.

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