SYCAMORE, Ohio—A huge fire at Ohio's largest tire dump is out, but investigators still haven't pinpointed a cause. About 6 million tires at Kirby's Tire Recycling in Sycamore ignited mysteriously Aug. 21. About 20 million to 40 million tires are scattered throughout the site.
The state fire marshal and the Wyandot County Sheriff's Department are investigating the cause. Officials are eliminating natural causes and leaning toward arson, Sheriff Mike Hetzel said.
Rain on Aug. 26 and 27 temporarily threatened local water supplies as oily runoff from the burning piles oozed into Sycamore Creek, a tributary of the Sandusky River, at a faster pace than Environmental Protection Agency officials could contain, an Ohio EPA spokeswoman said.
The runoff killed a ``sizable'' number of fish, she said. The EPA initially was concerned those contaminants would reach the downstream cities of Tiffin, Ohio (population 18,600), and Fremont, Ohio (population 17,650), by Aug. 31.
EPA officials had aerated the stream to try to speed the evaporation of the chemicals, the spokeswoman said.
Additional water tests near the site have shown private drinking water sources to be clean. The runoff in the river had been ``greatly diluted,'' and Tiffin officials anticipated no problems in treating the runoff, according to the EPA.
A contractor hired by the U.S. EPA has been pouring sand and clay on the fire site. With the smoke now gone, the agency has ceased off-site monitoring of air quality.
The tires on the site came from northern Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Canada, said Bob Large, supervisor of the division of solid and infectious waste management for the Ohio EPA.
Kirby's Tire was founded by Nobel Kirby in the 1950s. Kirby also operated a sand and gravel business in the area, which he left to his sons after his death, Large said.
Kirby's widow, Doris, and daughter manage the tire operation.
As far as the EPA knows, Kirby's Tire Recycling never did recycle the tires it collected, but sold some casings and tires with remaining tread to used tire businesses, he said. Even then, the agency believes the tire collector never charged its customers a reasonable disposal rate.
``They were probably making a quarter or less per tire historically,'' Large said.
``All they could afford to do at that price was stack them up and wait for some miracle to occur and then there would be value for those tires. And of course, that has never occurred.''
When a court ordered Kirby's to recycle 5,000 tires per day, the company began shredding tires for use as leachate material for landfills but never reached the required rate, according to Large. Kirby's also still accepted tires, which never allowed its outflow to surpass its inflow.
Kirby's Tire had told the EPA it was discussing deals with tire-derived fuel and crumb rubber processors, but those talks never panned out, Large said.
Although the agency hasn't considered it yet, Kirby's undoubtedly will face some type of enforcement action, Large said.