Monday, 12 October 2015

Underground fire in Trinityville, Jamaica, not volcanic.

Residents of the rural community of Trinityville in St Thomas Parish, Jamaica, have raised alarms about the possibility of a volcanic eruption in the area after smoke began rising from beneath the ground on a Coffee farm at Mount Vernon in the west of the community. No visible fire could be seen at the site, but digging beneath the ground rapidly resulted in an increase in smoke accompanied by flames. Jamaica is of volcanic origin, and while it does not currently suffer any volcanic activity, it is located on the boundary between the Caribbean Plate to the south and the Gonâve Microplate to the north, with the boundary between the two tectonic plates running east-to-west across the center of the isand, so the possibility of a volcanic eruption there is not to far fetched. However Simon Mitchell of the Department of Geology and Geography at the University of the West Indies does not believe this fire is of volcanic origin, suggesting instead that buried woody remains under the hillside have somehow ignited, and that the resultant smoke is a result of slow burning of this buried wood in a low-oxygen environment.

Lesley Williams, a resident of Mount Vernon, investigates the underground fire burning on a Coffee farm there. Ricardo Makyn/Jamaica Gleaner.

Underground fires can burn at a low level for very long periods of time. Where oxygen is limited but available the fuel is not consumed rapidly as in a fire at the surface, and as long as the oxygen remains available it will continue to survive. A coal fire which started at Planitz in Germany in 1476 was not extinguished until 1860, while a fire at Emalahleni in Mpumalanga has been burning since 1953 and one in Columbia County, Pennsylvania since 1962. A fire at Burning Mountain, Australia is thought to have been burning for about 6000 years.

The approximate location of the Mount Vernon Fire. Google Maps.

See also...

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The Tyne and Wear Fire service are investigating a possible underground fire at the site of the former Clara Vale mine workings. The fire is not thought to present any hazard to the public, but part of a local...


The United States Geological Survey recorded a Magnitude 4.8 Earthquake at a depth of 10 km in San Cristóbal Province in the southwest of the...



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