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1990: The Hagersville tire fire

The Story


There's a fire raging in a pile of 14 million scrap tires near Hagersville, Ont. Arson has been suggested as a cause, but right now firefighters are concentrating on containing the flames and toxic smoke - and rescuing a stranded raccoon. The CBC's Lorne Matalon says the town has not yet been evacuated, but that could change with the wind direction.

Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television News
Broadcast Date: Feb. 12, 1990
Guest(s): Bert Griffin, Roger Smith, Ed Straza, Doug Thompson, Patrick Zdunich
Reporter: Lorne Matalon
Duration: 2:59

Did You know?


• Investigators said arsonists, using gasoline and a match, triggered the fire. It continued to burn for 17 days. Tire fires are harder to extinguish than other types of fires because they get much hotter, and the shape of the tires allows drafts that feed the flames.

• The fire cost $10 million once firefighting and clean-up costs were tallied.

• Hagersville was evacuated the next day due to concerns residents would be affected by the toxic smoke. They weren't allowed back until Feb. 28, 1990. No one was injured, but long-term effects on human health in the area are yet unknown.

• Burning tires are more toxic than other materials. Their makeup of rubber and petroleum produces an oily sludge which can contaminate soil and groundwater, and the thick black smoke they emit can damage lungs.

• Scrap tires number 12 million each year in Ontario alone, and fewer than half of these are recycled. The rest go into landfills or scrap piles like Hagersville's. In Ontario, it's against the law to stockpile more than 5,000 tires without a permit, but illegal tire yards are very common.

• Scrap tires can be broken down and recycled into tire chips, soundproofing material, mats, silo covers and more.

• In the fall of 2002, a new program in Ontario was introduced to regulate tire haulers and recyclers in an effort to cut down on the number and size of tire heaps. The program also charges a levy of $3 on each new tire. The money collected by the program goes to a non-profit tire recycling and recovery effort run by the province.


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