Pomona fire: Army roped in

HARARE - The army has been roped in to the fire-fighting operations at the Pomona dumpsite in Harare, as domestic and industrial waste continues to burn.

Apart from the army, emergency response teams from the Fire and Rescue Services Department, Environmental Management Agency (Ema) as well as police have also been deployed to douse the uncontrollable fire.

The fire has been raging since the early hours of Sunday, with Harare City Council (HCC) indicating that extreme heat from biological decomposition had caused materials in the landfill to spontaneously combust.

Emergency response teams have cordoned off the area around the dumpsite as a precaution.

And yesterday, HCC spokesperson, Michael Chideme, told the Daily News that the army and several volunteers had been roped in to put out the fire.

“Harare is mobilising resources from government departments, the army, police and corporates to put down the fire at the Pomona dumpsite,” he said.

“Peter Lobel has supported with two water bowsers while the army has supplied plant, equipment and manpower,” he added.

The huge fire comes less than three years after a similar one which lasted days gutted the site and forced closure of Alpes Road and Harare Drive — affecting hundreds of motorists.

Alpes Road connects Alex Park, Vainona and parts of Hatcliffe while Harare Drive virtually links motorists using the semi ring road with multiple suburbs.

“The City is urging members of the public to avoid using Alpes Road and from going near the dumpsite because of associated health risks,” Chideme warned.

“Kombi drivers are also urged to avoid driving past the dumpsite along Alpes Road. The commuting public is also urged to report to the nearest police station. Public transporters must stop defying the directive. Homeowners staying close to the dumpsite should keep their windows closed. In the meantime, the city is using the Golden Quarry to dump garbage. Efforts are underway to develop a new landfill.”

The Pomona dumpsite has in the past been condemned by Ema, citing that it was a serious health hazard to residents.

Ema says landfill fires are especially dangerous as they can emit dangerous fumes from the combustion of the wide range of materials contained within the landfill.

Subsurface landfill fires also, unlike a typical fire, cannot be put out with water.

Residents had been made to believe that HCC would decommission the Pomona dumpsite by the end of 2013, to turn the landfill into a play field.

At that time, there had been suggestions that HCC had settled on a site in Mount Hampden and once their prospectus had been approved by the Ema, they would conduct a study.

This was after the HCC noted that the life of the dumpsite which was opened in 1984 had come to an end.

Three years down the line, all those promises are yet to be fulfilled.

The Pomona dumpsite in 2013 caught fire after an alleged vagrant lit some flammable materials at the site.

Council with the help of the Civil Aviation Authority, Pomona barracks and volunteers from around the area managed to douse the inferno, which claimed the life of one homeless man living among the rubbish.

Ema spokesperson Steady Kangata yesterday concurred that the dump site was illegal but it remains to be seen if concrete action would be taken following this episode.

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