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Billowing black smoke sends Chatan firefighters into gear

Date Posted: 2005-11-24

A weekend telephone call to fire dispatchers reported dense smoke pouring from an area near the Sunabe Seawall.

As firefighters raced to the area after the noon call, the smoke first made them wonder if a plane had crashed. It wasnít a plane, but burning piles of tires that was making the smoke. Officials say a 200 square meters area was ablaze, with four-meter high stacks of tires burning.

Police are blaming a local junkyard operator in the area for causing the fire. They say he had been burning wastes in a trash barrel, but the fire somehow spread to the tires. The area belongs to Okinawa Prefecture, but has been largely unsupervised by government officials. Instead, the areaís become a junkyard being used by many vendors without authorization.

Officials say the problem isnít unknown to the government offices. The incursions have been growing since 1999, with illegal dumping estimated at more than 2,500 tons of industrial waste. They say prefecture officials are fully aware of the illegal activity on the site, including the dumping of more than 200 cars in the area in 2002.

The weekend fire wasnít much of a challenge for Chatan firefighters. They had the smoky blaze extinguished in three hours.

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