Westley Tire Pile Chronology

March 23, 2007 

1950s -- Ed Filbin begins to collect tires in a canyon west of Interstate 5, believing they someday will be worth money. At one point, the pile grows to about 42 million tires. Filbin later sells the tire pile but not the land.

1987 -- Modesto Energy Limited Partnership, a group of private investors, builds a tire-burning plant next to the pile, consuming some tires from the pile and others trucked in, to produce electricity. A fire safety agreement is established between Filbin, the West Side Fire Protection District and the plant. In December, the state attorney general sues Filbin, the plant and tire-pile owner Oxford Tire and Energy Co. to get the pile cleaned up. Stanislaus County officials intervene on behalf of the defendants, saying the county sufficiently regulates the pile and ensures fire safety.

1989 -- Responsibility for regulating tire piles shifts from county agencies to the state, under a new state law.

1990 -- A judgment requires Filbin to create fire breaks, which is never done.

1995 -- Mark Kirkland buys the pile and establishes Oxford Tire Recycling. The plant continues to burn about 6 million tires per year.

1996 -- The California Integrated Waste Management Board conducts the second of only two inspections overseen by that agency in the history of the pile. The board rejects Kirkland's plan to eliminate the pile by 1997.

1997 -- The state waste board and Kirkland sign a $2 million agreement to reduce the tire pile, sharing the cost. Kirkland reduces the pile from an estimated 11 million tires to 7 million.

July 1998 -- The state rejects Kirkland's latest clean-up plan, then revokes his permit. Kirkland's business soon after declares bankruptcy and goes out of business.

July 1999 -- The state issues a clean-up order to Filbin.

August 1999 -- The state again orders Filbin to clean up the pile or face $10,000-a-day fines.

Sept. 7, 1999 -- The state rejects Filbin's request for a 30-day reprieve and again orders an immediate clean-up.

Sept. 12, 1999 -- The state warns the county fire warden that the pile has inadequate fire protection.

Sept. 18, 1999 -- The state reissues Filbin's clean-up order.

Sept. 22, 1999 -- Lightning strikes and ignites the pile, which spews thick clouds of black smoke hundreds of feet into the air. Officials on all levels say the best thing to do is to let the fire burn itself out -- perhaps over several months or even years.

Sept. 23, 1999 -- Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza is appointed to head up a committee on waste tire issues.

Sept. 30, 1999 -- Public outcry prompts federal officials to hire Williams Fire & Hazard Control, an industrial firefighting company based in Texas, to tackle the fire.

Oct. 6, 1999 -- People suffering from the smoke file a class-action lawsuit against Filbin, Kirkland and their companies. About 3,000 people ultimately join the lawsuit.

Oct. 9, 1999 -- Filbin submits a clean-up plan, but the state rejects it because it doesn't say how Filbin will pay.

Oct. 20, 1999 -- The Stanislaus County civil grand jury rejects a request by county Board of Supervisors Chairman Paul Caruso to investigate conditions that led to the fire.

Oct. 26, 1999 -- Williams Fire extinguishes the blaze, having used heavy equipment to bite off chunks of burning tires at a time and smothering them with water and foam.

Nov. 3, 1999 -- The tire-burning plant, which had shut down during the fire, starts up again.

December 1999 -- A local prosecutor brings criminal misdemeanor charges against Kirkland unrelated to the fire, saying he operated another pile nearby without a permit. Kirkland would plead no contest and pay a $10,000 fine.

Jan. 29, 2000 -- Having consumed all suitable tires salvaged from the fire, the plant closes. Its owners say they have nothing left to burn because of inability to strike a deal with a major tire hauler. The state hires a tire shredder to get rid of other tires too big to burn in the plant. From 3 million to 4 million tires damaged by the fire remain.

February 2000 -- The California Legislative Counsel issues an opinion saying the local district attorney and county counsel could have taken criminal and civil action, respectively, to get rid of the pile.

March 2000 -- Plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit add Stanislaus County as a defendant, for having failed to prevent the fire.

April 2000 -- California Attorney General Bill Lockyer files a civil lawsuit against Filbin, Kirkland, their companies and the plant, seeking up to $20 million to reimburse firefighting and clean-up costs.

May 2000 -- Stanislaus County District Attorney James Brazelton files a civil lawsuit which is expected to merge with the state's.

June 2000 -- The local grand jury, having reconsidered and conducted a probe, issues a report critical of state, county and West Side Fire Protection District officials.

September 2000 -- The California Legislature approves a bill co-authored by Cardoza that would raise the tax on new tires from 25 cents to $1. Proceeds would be used to help clean up rogue tire piles throughout California. Gov. Davis has not said whether he will sign the bill into law.

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