Burn Rubber: The World’s 9 Worst Tire Fires

Enormous, out of control tire fires are both terrifyingly evil in appearance and terribly deleterious to the environment. One might say these 9 infamous tire fires in particular aren’t just bad, they’re WHEEL awful!

Rhinehart Tire Fire, Virginia USA

(image via: Aviles21)

Approximately 7 million tires resting in situ at a storage facility in Rhinehart, northern Virginia, caught fire in October of 1983. At the fire’s maximum extent, a black plume of smoke rose 3,000 feet into the air and spread downwind for up to 50 miles – significant air pollution was recorded in three neighboring states. Tire fires are slow to start but notoriously difficult to extinguish; the Rhinehart Tire Fire burned for nine months! Nearby water sources were polluted with lead and arsenic compounds, and in October 1984 the dump was designated a Mid-Atlantic Superfund Site by the EPA. Cleanup efforts were effectively ended in 2002 and the file would finally be deleted in August of 2005.

The Great Kuwait Tire Fire

(images via: Ladies Who Do Lunch in Kuwait and Green Prophet)

Millions of dumped tires baking under the relentless desert sun would seem to be an accident waiting to happen… and on April 16th of 2012, the accident happened. Authorities can’t say exactly what set the five million tires stored near Jahra, Kuwait ablaze but suspicions are that scrap metal hawkers are to blame.

(image via: 500px)

The apocalyptic scene above is reminiscent of the hundreds of oil wells sabotaged by Saddam Hussein’s soldiers during their retreat from Kuwait in the 1991 Gulf War. The resemblance isn’t coincidental, either, as a single passenger car tire can yield up two gallons of oil according to EPA when properly processed. Burning massed tires uncontrolled, however, is NOT the proper way.

Watertown Tire Fire, Wisconsin USA

(images via: Wisconsin State Journal, Chris Schmidt, CIMSS and NASA Earth Observatory)

The Watertown Tire Fire broke out on July 19th, 2005 at Watertown Tire Recyclers, a tire recycling facility located west of Milwaukee and about 40 miles northeast of Madison, Wisconsin. It’s thought the blaze spontaneously combusted in a large mound of shredded tires, which burn much more easily compared to whole tires. The fire erupted on a clear day with gentle westerly winds; by mid-afternoon the dark sooty smoke plume had over-passed Milwaukee and had reached central Lake Michigan over 90 miles away.