Fire fighters extinguishing the fire at the Garstkloof Garden Waste in Pretoria East which left the whole area in smoke. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/ANA
RESIDENTS east of the city were yesterday urged to keep windows and doors closed to limit smoke inhalation after fire broke out at the Gartskloof landfill site on Sunday.

“Children and elderly persons, particularly with respiratory conditions, are urged to stay indoors. In addition, residents are further advised to consult their nearest health centres should they experience breathing difficulties,” Tshwane Emergency Service spokesperson Johan Pieterse said.

He said a team had worked hard to douse the fire that broke out at the old Gartskloof landfill site in Pretoria east on Sunday,

On Sunday evening, one of the rows of shredded garden waste started emitting smoke which suggested that there must have been a fire burning underneath.

Pieterse said the cause of the fire remained unknown, but it was suspected it may have been caused by spontaneous combustion of waste.

This is caused by a combination of the high temperature in the belly of a waste heap together with the heatwave weather conditions.

Due to the intense heat and strong wind, the fire spread throughout the entire landfill site of compost heaps causing a huge cloud of smoke that was still hanging over many parts of the city’s eastern suburbs.

Resources were mobilised on Monday.

However, due to the volumes of the material on site, the smoke had not been significantly reduced even though the fire had been contained, Pieterse said.

The team was doing everything it could to contain the situation, including mobilising partners such as Working for Fire and nearby metros who were at the landfill site.

“At this stage there is no threat of the fire spreading to nearby properties.

“There is also no threat of the gases from the waste that is buried underneath catching fire as the waste is covered by more than 1.5m of soil cover material,” Pieterse said.

About three years ago, the city stopped using the site for the purposes of dumping and burying general waste as is the practice at landfill sites.

This was after the city realised that the site was reaching its allowable height limit.

The city then started to use the site to process shredded garden refuse to make compost as allowed in the operating permit of a landfill site.

This is part of the city’s programme to separate and re-use recyclable waste material as required by the national waste strategy.

Pieterse said a team would remain on-site and work 24/7 to ensure that the fire was completely extinguished.