NORTH EAST — The cause of a fire that destroyed a 55-foot semi-trailer at the Cecil County Central Landfill has been ruled accidental, after it initially had been believed to be the result of arson, officials reported.
A passerby called 911 at 7:17 p.m. Friday, after noticing the blaze at the landfill at 758 E. Old Philadelphia Road near North East, fire officials reported.
Approximately 10 volunteer firefighters battled the blaze for about 20 minutes, before bringing it under control, fire officials said. North East Fire Company served as the on-scene command unit, fire officials added.
The blaze destroyed the 2018 55-foot-long aluminum transfer trailer, valued at an estimated $60,000, according to a MOSFM spokesman, who identified the Cecil County government as the owner of the structure.
MOSFM investigators have determined that the blaze started inside the trailer and that it was started accidentally, fire officials reported.
“It was determined that actually the fire was a smoldering, or a slow fire, that had originated within that trailer, probably from someone else’s trash or what not that had been dumped in there, and it self-combusted and spread from there,” Sr. Deputy State Fire Marshal Oliver J. Alkire, an agency spokesman, told the Cecil Whig on Monday night. “Nobody actually entered onto the property with fireworks.”
In a MOSFM press release issued Saturday, fire officials reported that someone had torched the trailer, categorizing the blaze as “incendiary, due to an unknown person trespassing onto the landfill and discharging illegal fireworks igniting tires and combustibles within the semi-trailer.”
However, after MOSFM detectives watched landfill surveillance video, fire officials retracted that preliminary conclusion in a press release issued Monday morning.
“Investigators reviewed security camera video from the landfill and have been able to rule out any malicious intent causing the semi-trailer fire,” officials reported.
Emily Witty, a MOSFM public information officer, told the Cecil Whig on Monday afternoon that the initial conclusion of arson and of trespassing by an unknown individual was based solely on the preliminary investigation, which included an interview with the passerby.
But later, a review of video that was gleaned from on-site surveillance cameras and taken during the time of the fire did not support that preliminary conclusion, she reported.
“(The video) confirmed that there was no person present that would have set off anything, nor was there any fireworks that would have caused the fire, so it is no longer ruled as incendiary,” Witty said.
Witty explained that the initial conclusion likely was based on what the witness believed he or she saw, commenting, “It was suggested that it was fireworks. It was the Fourth of July weekend (when private fireworks displays are common).”