The black smoke ferries toxic chemicals released from the breakdown of rubber compounds across Jones Valley, as if the air quality here wasn’t miasmic enough already. Rubber smoke typically contains both carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide, and various aromatic hydrocarbons. Rubber fires are notoriously difficult to extinguish because of low thermal conductivity. I’m not a fire investigator, but since rubber has a low propensity for self-immolation, and has to be heated for several minutes at very high temperatures, I’m going to conjecture that this was probably arson. I heard from some of the other firebug sightseers that police had discovered a homicide in the building the day before.
Thankfully, this rubber fire was extinguished within a number of hours, but tire fires have been known to burn for days at a time. The EPA reports that spraying a tire fire with water is futile, and that sand or soil is best adapted for effectively smothering the fire and extinguished its source of oxygen.
The oily and flammable runoff from this tire fire will leach into the surrounding ground and into the sewer system. According to the EPA and the Rubber Manufacturers Association, the average tire produces two gallons of oil when burned. Because smoke is the most obvious pollutant, it is important to remember that tire fires can affect groundwater and soil qualities (not that people are harvesting crops next to I-65).
Mayor William Bell is interviewed by ABC: “Do you think Birmingham has a fire problem, Mayor Bell?”
“No, I think fire has a Birmingham problem.”
I wanted to hand a fiddle to Mayor Bell, so he could fiddle as Birmingham burns.