Fire crews responded to a three-alarm garbage fire at the Salem Transfer Station Tuesday morning.
Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Emanuelson said crews were alerted at 5:40 a.m. when a municipal services employee discovered the fire at the transfer station, and they arrived about eight minutes later.
“While en route, we had the town municipal services employee confirm he had a working fire there,” Emanuelson said.
The transfer station is not part of the public water system, so the department requested tankers from Hampstead, Windham, Atkinson, Danville and Sandown. Derry and Atkinson helped with additional engines.
Emanuelson said the fire itself was classified as two alarms, but the third alarm was triggered for more tankers.
The blaze was under control within an hour of arriving, but Emanuelson said crews remained for about six more hours overhauling the garbage with the aid of municipal services employees in loaders moving the trash out.
“It was a labor intensive fire because of the piles of trash,” Emanuelson said.
They finished cleaning up the site at about 12:45 p.m., he said.
Emanuelson said there was some damage to the all-steel building that stored the garbage, and they plan on inspecting it before reopening it for use because they have some concerns about its structural integrity.
“This building has had multiple fires in it in the last decade and a half,” Emanuelson said.
The transfer station was closed since Saturday, he said, which likely contributed to the fire.
While the cause is undetermined, Emanuelson said it’s likely the improper disposal of materials — often something like wood stove ash or lithium-ion batteries — sparked the fire, and it was allowed to slowly smolder over the past few days.
Once a municipal services employee opened a door to the affected area, the introduction of fresh air fed the fire and it spread rapidly, he said.
“Unfortunately not everybody takes the proper care when disposing their household trash,” Emanuelson said.
He said residents should dispose of lithium-ion batteries, often used for laptops and other electronics, by recycling them at Batteries Plus stores and similar outlets.