GLENWOOD CANYON, Colo.-The state's attempt to use scrap tires in a civil engineering capacity went up in smoke recently. An experimental tire wall serving as camouflage for scarred terrain along Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon burst into flames Oct. 31 and has smoldered since.
And now the 125,000 tires-recovered from a landfill, shredded and compressed into blocks for the 300-foot-by-60-foot wall-will be sent back to the dump.
The state Department of Transportation said it had a confirmed sighting of a lightning strike and believes the lightning ignited the six-tiered tire wall, which smoldered unobserved for two weeks before flaring.
After firefighters brought the fire under control the next day, state workers began dismantling the tire wall and dousing ``hot spots'' that flared as layers of tire chips behind the blocks became exposed to oxygen in the air. The DOT expects the deconstruction to take about two months.
The DOT installed the wall earlier this year as part of its research into ways to recycle the state's scrap tires.
Ironically, prior to the fire, contractors were preparing to cover the tire tiers with dirt and landscaping, which may have prevented the fire, a DOT spokesman said.
The state DOT will decide whether it will pursue installation of other tire walls after the fire investigator determines the cause of the fire and how to prevent future occurrences, the spokesman said.
Scrap Tire Management Council Executive Director Michael Blumenthal said that while there are two reported cases of lightning igniting tire pile fires, he was unaware of tires in a civil engineering application going up in smoke.
``It's a freak accident,'' Mr. Blumenthal said. ``It should not be used as an excuse not to use tires in civil engineering applications.''