Crews that have been battling a fire at the Iowa City Landfill for the past nine days are taking a new approach. Geoff Fruin, with the city manager’s office, says it’s now a “stir, burn and cover” operation.

“Essentially what we’re doing is taking heavy machinery into the fire scene and stirring up the shredded tires,” Fruin says. “What that’ll do is more rapidly burn the fuel that’s left on those tires, so it accelerates the burning phase.”

The landfill in Iowa City is lined with shredded tires. “After that accelerated burn is over, we’ll come in with bulldozers and essentially push clay soil over the fire to smother it below the surface,” Fruin explained. The new method for fighting the fire is expected to create large smoke plumes over the landfill.

The operation could take a week or longer, depending on weather conditions, to finally extinguish the fire. “As we move forward with this, we realize we’re going to be increasing the amount of smoke that’s generated from the fire — that’s part of the stirring and burning phase — so we want to make sure the wind is pushing the smoke away from the populated areas,” Fruin said.

Public health officials have been testing the air quality around the landfill fire and have reported the levels are “not alarming.” Two private contractors are being paid $100,000 to conduct the “stir, burn and cover” operation.

The fire originally started on May 26th when some type of hot material dumped in the landfill ignited other garbage and spread to the shredded tire liner.