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The compost material fire at the Las Cruces Foothills Landfill was extinguished Thursday, July 27, the Las Cruces Fire Department (LCFD) said in a news release.
The green waste debris – mostly tree limbs, branches, leaves, weeds and grasses – had been smoldering since the material caught fire during a lightning storm on the evening of Saturday, July 22, the city said.
On Thursday, city Solid Waste Department crews continued separating debris into manageable piles, saturating them with reclaimed water and cycling large amounts of soil into the mix to extinguish the fire, the city said. The smoldering debris was deemed to be extinguished by about 2 p.m.
Solid Waste and LCFD crews will continue to monitor the landfill for potential rekindling of debris.
The Foothills Landfill, 555 S. Sonoma Ranch Blvd., will re-open to the public at 8 a.m. Friday, July 28, and will resume normal hours of 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday. The landfill is closed on Sundays.
The Foothills Landfill accepts clean-fill and green yard waste, including tree limbs, leaves, weeds and grass. Green yard waste is composted into mulch at the landfill. Compost material is available free to Las Cruces residents and commercial customers on a first-come, first-serve basis. Quantities of mulch are limited while supplies last.
The Foothills Landfill also accepts clean-fill material including asphalt, bricks, concrete, dirt and rocks.
The Las Cruces Fire Department has taken additional measures to address a pesky fire at the City of Las Cruces Foothills Landfill off Sonoma Ranch Boulevard between Dripping Springs Road and Lohman Avenue.
Fire officials now say the smoke emissions from the smoldering debris will be significantly reduced and likely undetectable in surrounding neighborhoods by Thursday afternoon, July 27.
The fire originally started Saturday night, July 22, when a lightning strike hit a pile of raw yard waste at the landfill.
At the early stages of the fire, the City of Las Cruces Solid Waste Department staff arrived at the scene of the fire and coordinated with LCFD to determine the safest and most effective way to mitigate the fire, LCFD said.
However, the city reassessed and beginning Wednesday, July 26, heavy machinery has been on site since 6 a.m. July 26 to help mitigate the smoldering material.
The material – including trees, branches, leaves, weeds and grasses – is being separated into manageable piles and spread out to facilitate the use of dirt to smother the smoldering debris. Doing so also makes it more manageable to apply water on hot spots. Arrangements have been made to bring in a 6,000-gallon water tanker and a large bulldozer to assist in separating and extinguishing the material.
These two vehicles are not within the city's Solid Waste Department or LCFD fleet, which factored into the evaluation, the fire department said. Solid Waste Department personnel will operate the water tank and bulldozer to help extinguish the smoldering debris.
"LCFD takes our community's concerns seriously," Fire Chief Jason Smith said. "We are sensitive to the fact that many people have been dealing with smoke from allowing the compost material to burn itself out. We continue to advise our residents who are impacted by the smoke to keep windows and doors to their homes closed, use fans to circulate air, set air conditioning units to recirculate cool air and avoid spending considerable time outdoors when smoke is detectible.
"Although LCFD has not experienced an increase in respiratory calls over the last four days in nearby neighborhoods, our staff understands that residents with pre-existing respiratory health issues may have been negatively impacted," Smith said.