Three-Alarm Fire Burns at Landfill in North San Jose

Fire crews battled a three-alarm trash fire at a landfill in North San Jose Sunday evening, fire crews said, which could be seen for miles and was difficult to put out because it burned in 30-foot high piles of tanbark.

The blaze was reported shortly before 4:30 p.m. During the height of the fire, about 50 San Jose firefighters and 11 fire engines were on the scene at the Zanker Materials Recovery and Landfill, located at 705 Los Esteros Rd. near the intersection of Highway 238 and Zanker Road in San Jose. Tanbark is the bark of a certain type of tree, and is often referred to as mulch.

"When we got here, what we found was a large piece of equipment on fire along with several piles of wood," San Jose fire Cpt. Reggie Williams said.

Williams said the wind was pushing the flames, causing spot fires to start. And according to NBC Bay Area Meteorologist Rob Mayeda, the winds were gusting at about 20 miles per hour, which was making it tough for firefighters to get the blaze contained.

But Sunday evening, fire crews contained the fire, which means it will not spread, but getting it under control has been a challenge.

"Tanbark burns kind of like a candle," Williams said. "It burns from the surface, and it burns down and it burns deep."

"The wood piles up there are in some cases 30-to-40 feet high," Williams added. "We’re using large machinery to move those piles around so that we can get to the heart of it and put water on it."

There were also some issues with the water situation at the landfill, so crews were having to truck in some of the water to fight the flames, fire crews said.

"We’re having to shuttle water from the street here, about nearly a half mile up the hill to where the wood pile is in order to put out the fire," Williams said.

There are no homes nearby, but the smoke was still thick and could be seen for miles in the South Bay as of Sunday evening.

While it is still just the beginning of fire season, crews said they are bracing themselves, calling this a prelude to what is expected through the hot summer months.

"With the increase in heat, the wind, the reduction in humidity, we’re going to expect more and more fires," Williams said. "This is at least our 10th vegetation fire of the day. I am sure we’ve had more, but this is the 10th one that I’ve known about."

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