How the Bowerman Landfill Survived the 2020 Silverado Fire

The metaphor of a phoenix rising from the ashes is most apropos for the story of how the Frank R. Bowerman (FRB) Landfill caught fire then safely returned to operations in just more than one month.

October 26, 2020 marks one of the most extreme situations in OCWR history. That’s the day the Silverado Fire ravaged through FRB. The wind gusted up to nearly 70 miles an hour at times, enabling the wildfire to travel as it pleased. And there was nothing anyone could do to stop it. In all, the Silverado Fire burned more than 14,000 acres. Fortunately, no lives, homes or buildings were lost.

The day of the fire, 24 persons had to shelter in place, including OCWR, OCSD and OCFA personnel and some customers. FRB operations crew members helped most of the customers exit the site using the emergency route. They also moved the heavy equipment away from any flammable materials, in an effort to keep the fleet safe. Thankfully no persons were injured and the equipment was kept safe.

According to Deputy Director David Tieu, his “priority number one was to account for all personnel and customers and ensure everyone was safe from the fire. Fortunately, we were able to safely evacuate everyone under the direction of the Sheriff and OC Fire Authority."

Site leadership and staff members were allowed to return to the site on October 28, to assess damage. The fire took out more than 40 power poles, demolishing the site’s power system and communications. It also destroyed the site’s gas collection and environmental control systems and some safety apparatus, including the exposed liner, LFG lines, water lines and roadside guard rails.

During this time, staff and contractors worked long hours to restore power and communication lines, and to get the landfill gas collection system back online. On November 30, with many of the reconstruction efforts completed and others underway, FRB resumed operations. OCWR demonstrated its resiliency and ability to come together to triumph by overcoming a disaster.

View the video below to hear from OCWR team members about Surviving and Recovering from the Silverado Fire.

Infographic about how the Frank R. Bowerman Landfill was affected by the Silverado Fire