Tire fires, where tires are stored, dumped, or processed, exist in two forms: as fast-burning events, leading to almost immediate loss of control, and as slow-burning pyrolysis which can continue for over a decade. They are noted for being difficult to extinguish. Such fires produce a lot of smoke, which often carries toxic chemicals from the breakdown of rubber compounds while burning.
Tires are typically not prone to self-ignition as a tire must be heated to at least 400 °C for a period of several minutes prior to ignition. Therefore, tire fires are normally the result of arson or improper manipulation with open fire. However, it is possible for tires to spontaneously combust, especially in the case of shredded tires or tire "crumbs".
Extinguishing tire fires is difficult. The fire releases a dark, thick smoke that contains carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and products of butadiene and styrene. A specific danger is posed by dripping hot fluids (which may cause burns) and valves shooting from the fire under pressure. Burning tires are heated and as they have a low thermal conductivity, they are difficult to cool down. Moreover, they frequently burn inside even if they are extinguished from outside, and easily reignite when hot. One possibility is to cover the fire with soil, reducing the supply of oxygen and exhaust of the thick dark toxic smoke. After extinguishing and cooling down (which may last several days), the site must be surveyed and toxic chemicals neutralized.
Notable tire fires
Some notable tire fires include:
- 1983 – Seven million tires burn in Winchester, Virginia, for nine months, polluting nearby areas with lead and arsenic. The location was cleaned up as a Superfund project from 1983 to 2002.
- 1984 – A pile estimated at four million tires, known locally as Mount Firestone, ignited in Everett, Washington, and burned for months as the fire department was unable to extinguish it.
- 1989 – In Heyope (near Knighton, Powys, Wales) a fire involved approximately 10 million tires burnt for at least 15 years.
- 1990 – In Hagersville, Ontario, a fire started in a pile of 12 to 14 million tires; it burned for 17 days and forced 4,000 people to evacuate.
- 1996 – An Arson in March at an illegal tire yard underneath a section of I-95 in Philadelphia caused $6 million in damage and completely closed a section of the highway for weeks and partial closures for six months. 
- 1998 – A grass fire ignited the 7 million tires at the unlicensed S.F. Royster Tire Disposal Facility in Tracy, California. It was extinguished, after 26 months, with water and foam in December 2000.
- 1999 – On August 21, arsonists ignited the former Kirby Tire Recycling facility, containing an estimated 25 million tires located on 110 acres (0.45 km2) near Sycamore, Ohio. The fire burned for 30 hours, involved over 250 firefighters, the Ohio National Guard and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and caused significant environmental damage. The fire was controlled and finally extinguished in part by covering it with dirt. In the intervening years the EPA has performed a massive clean up effort on the site.
- 1999 – Lightning struck a tire dump in Westley, California, which burned for 30 days. Pyrolitic oil flowed into a nearby stream and also ignited.
- 2012 – On January 27, 2012, a massive tire fire sparked at a tire recycling plant in Lockport, New York, causing dangerous amounts of soot and smoke to burn over the city for over 22 hours, causing serious damage to many homes.
- 2012 – In Jahra, Kuwait, a five million tire fire erupted on April 16, 2012. The fire was thought to be started deliberately by scrap metal hawkers looking to recover scrap metal.
- 2012 – In Iowa City, Iowa, at approximately 6:45 p.m. on May 26, 2012, a fire started in the ground tire bedding material at the Iowa City Landfill, involving at least 7.5 acres of landfill. It was finally extinguished on June 12, 2012, after a "stir, burn and cover" operation. 
- 2012 – Tire fire protests erupted all over Lebanon. Protesters used burning tires to cut off main roads in Lebanon.
- 2013 – Tire fire ignited in Nassau, Bahamas. The poorly managed municipal dump has had multiple fires and finally resulted in a tire fire on August 13th.
In popular culture
- The Simpsons features a recurring location (which is visible in the opening sequence) called the "Springfield Tire Yard", which is always on fire, except in a few choice episodes where it has been extinguished (once it was bulldozed into a sinkhole). However it never stays permanently extinguished and is seen burning in following episodes.
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- Hermiston, Lee. "After 15 days, landfill fire is extinguished". Iowa City Press Citizen. Retrieved 11 Jan 2013.