BIG Fire Next Door

Plastics recycling plant went up. About 30 units (!), though I probably didn’t see all of them because many were apparently being held in reserve, tucked away in trees.

I’d noticed that the plant didn’t seem to be operating so much (there’s a fairly noisy shredder/conveyor thingy so you can tell) and material had accumulated on site and “overflowed” into neighbouring fields, mostly either baled, or in builders bags. I assumed the price of the product must have dropped, and I suppose arson might be a possibility.

Grandstand view from the dorm block (no camera unfortunately) and I watched firepersons in full breathing apparatus apparently working on top of hills composed of recently burning builders bags full of plastic waste, originally stacked 3 or 4 deep. Seemed unecessarily brave to me, in the absence of any real immediate threat to life or property, and in my inexpert view their officers need a sharp kick up their collective arse. The plant’s gone, and there’s nothing else close apart from a mobile phone relay aerial across the road.

Later they got tracked backhoe’s in (which seem abundant in Taiwan) to scrape the piles apart, which kept re-igniting and being hosed down again. Its gradually dying down as I type.

I had to walk under the plume (which looked to be coming down in Tainan city, where the air quality must have been pretty poor this morning) to get my breakfast, and took an industrial cartridge-type toxic-gas mask with me as a precaution against the impending rain and the firefighting efforts bringing the plume down into Datan village, though I didn’t use it. This seemed to amuse the Taiwanese a lot. I “think too much”, probably.

Don’t worry about thinking too much. I am sure you could unbuckle your seat belt after an accident, walk up to check on the 3 other passangers that just flew through the windshield, and they would tell you you “think too much” for wearing a seat belt. I’m sure the similar ideas are true for wanting oxygen.

Oops. Just gone up again. I suppose its like a burning bing (bitta Scottish industrial heritage for ya there) so hard to put out permanently.

Winds are unfavourable today. If it gets to be anything like last time it’ll be a definite health hazard to the campus.


(WHERE did I put that not-so-funny-now mask?)

Well, it’s a biggie, it disrupted the trains, didn’t it?

Fire brigade were prompt on scene and got it under control very quickly.

Campus reaction was a bit more of the “traditional” Chinese Fire Drill, though, and I have need of a bit of a Typhoon In a Teacup rant about it.

Apologies in advance.

Classes (and therefore end of term exams) were “officially” cancelled, but of course nobody told me. Air was a bit nasty in the open (though not much worse than it often is in this area) but OK in the classroom. I’d checked the plant area and there were 5 units in attendance and it looked pretty thoroughly damped down so I made reassuring noises to the students and started the class, wherupon an English speaking Taiwanese teacher came in and told me all classes were cancelled, so I made un-reassuring noises to the students and dismissed the class.

Turned out “cancelled” didn’t mean REALLY cancelled, just sort-of cancelled, or “officially” cancelled, and I noticed that many Chinese teachers, naturally more culturally attuned than me, were still holding classes.


Across to the office seeking enlightenment, on the way meeting a Taiwanese teacher I know who tells me she’s still holding her class because she doesn’t want to have to schedule a makeup test, and when am I going to schedule mine?

“I’m not. I won’t have a test. That’s what cancelled means, isn’t it? I’ll just grade them on what I’ve already got” ses I naively.

She was shocked “They won’t let you do THAT. The final exam is VERY IMPORTANT”

And so it proved. Official policy is to reschedule the test next week, (and?)/or Saturday, and/or the Summer Solstice, and/or ANZAC Day, etc. Of course I get delegates of students who can’t or won’t make delayed dates since they are (or say they are) going to be away, but a shouting match with the boss confirmed that I don’t have discretion to REALLY cancel a test that’s OFFICIALLY been cancelled.


I thought it best not to discuss whether I have discretion on what to do with students who miss the final test, but I’m telling anyone who asks that if they miss it I’ll grade them on the midterm.


Plants almost under the elevated railway which was enveloped in thick black smoke yesterday, but didn’t get hot enough for structural damage.

So to sum up my fresh insight into Taiwanese Culture

Its perfectly OK to ignore an evacuation order because its inconvenient. Its ONLY a safety precaution, after all, like, say, red traffic lights or driving on the correct side of the road.

(Most of the Chinese teachers weren’t on site at the weekend so would have no idea of what they were potentially faced with. I’d bet hardly any of them knew the plant existed.)

Its NOT OK to drop a test. Thats shockingly unprofessional and irresponsible behaviour.

One of my Taiwanese colleges is in contact with someone senior in the EPA, who told her not to be concerned about dioxin because they’d inspected the site and temperatures hadn’t exceeded 1000 degrees C. (?!) :eh:

Dunno if that’s deliberate mis-information, or just confusion, but either way its tosh.

Edit: Could it have been a mis-hearing of “PVC”? But they’d both have been speaking Chinese… :ponder:

Two weeks and some heavy sustained rain later the air still stinks eye-nose-throat-stingingly of burnt plastic when the wind is from the west, and now they’ve started recovering the steel so dust/soot, and presumably the associated dioxins, is getting airbourne. No water-spraying to reduce dispersal, of course.

The plastic residue on-site appears to be either masses of fuzed and charred thermoplastic, (probably polythene) or “chips” of harder (thermosetting?) plastic, also charred but generally not fuzed. I suppose it (and its associated dioxin) is likely to end up in one of the local fish ponds that are being converted to landfill, if they don’t chuck it in a river, or the sea.

Rumour has it the plant is illegal (on agricultural land) but I suppose that’ll only matter if the owners aren’t very well connected.

Is this it?

Yeh, that’s it. End of the first vid shows the girder “arch” in my top photo. The other “night fire” vid looks like it was taken from my dorm block. Its about 100m away.If the wind had been westerly during the main fire I’d guess it’d have been immediately life threatning.

That was a hell of a fire!