A large fire broke out at an open used-tire storage in an industrial area, near a recycling plant that had started its operation only two months earlier. The fire expanded fast and covered the whole pile of the tires, estimated at 15.000 t, stocked over an area of approx. 40,000 m². A dense plume of dark smoke (possibly containing dioxins, PAHs, heavy metals…) rose to a high altitude, raising concerns even from neighbouring Bulgaria. The winds kept the smoke away from the city of Drama, but serious complaints about breathing discomfort from inhabitants of nearby villages were reported.

Due to the immediate response of the fire brigade, the local and regional authorities and the assistance of the army, the burning pile was completely covered with earth in 3 days, limiting the smoke emissions, but the rubber pyrolisis continued within the pile for several days. At the beginning of fire-fighting operations, concrete was pumped on the fire from a distance, due to the immense heat that hindered the approach of bulldozers. This questionable practice raised the fire quenching cost up to 400.000 €.

Prevention measures included seizure of milk and dairy products, prohibition of grazing for nearby cattle farms, public briefing etc. Simultaneously, an extended monitoring program was agreed, including samples of air, ground, water, animal and vegetable products. Fortunately, apart from an initial survey identifying soil samples contaminated with heavy metals, no other environmental damage was concluded, largely due to the relatively fast and effective fire quenching campaign.

The fire broke out when a thunderbolt hit the pile at around 02:10 am during a severe dry storm. The investigation showed that the site did not have all the permits to operate and did store almost 4 times the allowed quantities (15.000 t of tires had accumulated for an allowed quantity of 4,000 t). The tires were stored in one pile against all good practices to store in small piles, in zone separated by firewalls.

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