Central landfill closed as stubborn fire continues to burn

The Maui News

A fire that started Friday afternoon in a green waste pile at the Maui EKO Systems composting facility continued to burn Saturday and closed the Central Maui Landfill all day, a fire official reported.

The landfill is closed today as it is normally on Sundays. It remained uncertain if it would reopen Monday, said Maui Fire Department Fire Services Chief Edward Taomoto.

As of 5:45 p.m. Saturday, fire crews remained at the scene, he said.

“It looks like the fire’s going to be burning for a while,” he said.

The fire was deep under the compost heap — described as being 300-by-300-feet wide and long and 15 feet high — and on Saturday there was at least one “large flare-up” of about 1 acre, Taomoto said. The fire remained contained in the EKO composting facility.

“There is no threat of spreading beyond their facility,” he said.

Kahului station engine and water tanker crews were at the scene late Saturday afternoon, along with a Wailea fire station tanker, a Department of Public Works tanker and a loader, and one tanker and two loaders from EKO, he said.

“Deep-seated fires like this one can be very difficult to extinguish because the mounds of organic material holds the heat, and water can’t easily penetrate to the center of the burning material,” Taomoto said. “The decision to reopen the landfill on Monday will be made by landfill supervisors after they assess conditions that morning.”

Maui County spokesman Rod Antone said that as of Saturday afternoon the Olowalu transfer station was full of solid waste, and it was expected to be closed for the rest of the day. Antone said the Olowalu facility was affected by the closure of the Central Maui Landfill.

He noted that EKO is not a county operation. The company leases county property within the landfill for its composting operation.

The landfill was closed because heavy smoke had spread through the area, making it difficult to see or breathe, Antone said.

On Friday, after firefighters had left Maui EKO employees to fight the compost pile fire around 5 p.m. that day, a Kahului fire station water tanker crew was called back to the landfill at 8 p.m. Friday and 4 a.m. Saturday.

Also Friday, firefighters left the landfill blaze to battle a brush fire, apparently unrelated, about 2 miles mauka of the landfill on Pulehu Road. That second fire was contained around 6:30 p.m. It burned 14 acres in a fallow sugar cane field.