Crews fight smoldering trash fire in Kennewick (w/ gallery)

KENNEWICK -- Smoldering trash inside a Kennewick Waste Management station covered the evening sky Sunday with thick smoke as dozens of firefighters worked to ventilate the metal building.

Crews were still on the scene 51/2 hours after they first got the call of smoke coming from the Kennewick Transfer Station & Recycling Center, so officials weren't available to provide the cause or details about their efforts.

Kennewick firefighters stationed just a block away on 27th Avenue were the first to respond at 5 p.m. to 2627 S. Ely St.

They immediately saw smoke billowing from crevices around the closed doors.

Waste Management trucks and Kennewick residents dump trash and yard waste at the facility, where it is compressed before being packed onto trailers and taken out of town to a landfill.

The smoldering trash had created poor visibility inside, but firefighters couldn't open the four large bay doors because the excessive heat created problems either with the metal or the mechanical devices, according to Kennewick fire Capt. Joe Terpenning at the scene at 6 p.m.

So crews got to work cutting large triangles in the doors for ventilation while using industrial fans to push out the smoke, he said.

One of the bay doors was opened shortly after 7 p.m., which sent a huge puff of smoke into the air and to the east down 27th Avenue well past Olympia Street.

Firefighters from throughout Kennewick, Benton County and Burbank assisted, either fighting the trash fire in shifts or providing backup at a nearby station in case of other emergencies.

The incident also attracted the attention of dozens of nearby residents and motorists, who parked their cars in nearby lots and stood on sidewalks -- even in a heavy rainstorm -- to take pictures and watch.

It was not clear Sunday night how this will affect Waste Management's services.