The dark clouds of smoke rising from the fire at the MAWC dumpsite facility last Friday could be seen from miles away around the atoll. The fire started around noon last Friday and was quickly out of control.
The National Disaster Management Office and Red Cross responded quickly, and MIPD’s fire truck was on the scene shortly after 1pm. In the early going, MAWC staff launched a bucket brigade, hauling water from the lagoon across the road to dump on the spreading fire. Staff from MAWC, NDMO and Public Works later donned masks and started throwing bucketfuls of water as firefighters geared up to attack the fire. With no recording of what the mountain of trash contains and the possibility of significant toxicity of fire fumes, first responders evacuated nearby residences to Delap Elementary School.
The fire continued into Sunday morning. But fire control was aided by a heavy rain overnight Saturday-Sunday. MAWC reopened the dump Tuesday.
General Manager Jorelik Tibon says they suspect a cigarette caused the first small fire, and, because three of their main pieces of heavy equipment are under repair, they could not contain the fire easily.
“We didn’t have a choice but to put out the fire with limited resources,” he said. Nonetheless a number of people spent hours exposed to toxins while trying to help, Tibon said.
Read more about this in the March 15, 2018 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.