By Larry Persily
Wrangell Sentinel 

Municipal burn pit back in operation


October 18, 2023 | View PDF

After being shut down for less than a week, the borough-operated burn pit at the solid waste transfer station is back in operation.

Crews salvaged enough material to rebuild the burn pit a little farther away from the cliff that dumped a rockslide on the site Oct. 6.

Workers retrieved the metal grates from the slide debris, along with enough of the concrete blocks to rebuild the burn platform, said Tom Wetor, Public Works director. Nothing was damaged so much that it could not be reused.

The site reopened on Wednesday, Oct. 11, to accept wood waste, brush and other large, burnable items from the public.

Crews were not able to pull all the concrete blocks from the rockslide area, Wetor said. “We’re still a little worried about more rock coming down.”

That limited how high they could set the grates off the ground at the new site. “Maybe it won’t burn quite as hot as we used to,” but it will be sufficient, he said. The burn platform is about 15 feet by 15 feet, with workers heaping burnable materials on top of the grates and later collecting the ashes.

Wrangell bails up its non-burnable trash and ships it out of town by barge and rail to a landfill in Washington state.

Wetor said borough officials would look to see if there is a way to stabilize the rock cliff above the burn pit and waste transfer station. “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when” more rock will come down, he said.

The rock pit was blasted out maybe 50 or so years ago, he said. It’s not uncommon for older rock faces to break apart and tumble downhill, particularly after years of freeze-thaw cycles.

There is a Federal Aviation Administration tower at the top of the hill, Wetor noted, which the borough will need to pay attention to if it attempts to remove loose rock and stabilize the cliff.

Though the burn pit has reopened, the area closer to the rock face has been cordoned off to prevent anyone from getting too close.


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