Tire fire

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A tire fire in Philadelphia on November 9, 2021 A tire fire in Philadelphia on November 9, 2021.jpg
A tire fire in Philadelphia on November 9, 2021

Tire fires are events that involve the combustion of large quantities of tires, usually waste tires, typically in locations where they are stored, dumped, or processed. They 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 much smoke, which carries toxic chemicals from the breakdown of synthetic rubber compounds while burning. [1]


Tire fires are normally the result of arson or improper manipulation with open fire. Additionally protestors regularly burn tires as part of protests. [2] [3] Tires are not prone to self-ignition, as a tire must be heated to at least 400 degrees Celsius (750 degrees Fahrenheit) for a period of several minutes prior to ignition.

A deliberately set fire during a protest in Lille, France observed by emergency workers waiting to manage the fire. Manifestation de pompiers Feu de pneus devant prefecture Lille 27 juin 2017a 01.jpg
A deliberately set fire during a protest in Lille, France observed by emergency workers waiting to manage the fire.

Extinguishing tire fires is difficult. The fire releases a dark, rich smoke that contains cyanide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and products of butadiene and styrene. 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 possible remedy is to cover the fire with sand, reducing the supply of oxygen and the exhaust of smoke. After extinguishing and cooling down (which may last several days), toxic chemicals can be neutralized. [4]

Use in protest

Fires being burned as part of the 2018-2023 Haitian crisis 2019 Haitian protests tire fire.png
Fires being burned as part of the 2018–2023 Haitian crisis

Because waste tires are readily available and produce dense smoke, protestors sometimes burn tires and create tire barriers as part of protest. [5] For example, an analysis in The Times of Israel noticed an increasing trend of tire burning in the demonstrations following the 17 October Revolution. [6]

Notable tire fires

Some notable tire fires include:

In popular culture the phrase is used to mean a horrifying mess that seems to last forever.[ citation needed ]

The TV show The Simpsons is set in a fictional town called Springfield, which features a permanent tire fire.[ citation needed ]

See also

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