Tire fires are a nasty business, and in Kuwait yesterday, a fire broke out at a dump that held more than 5 million tires. The fire was so big that the smoke plume was visible from space:

A tire fire this big is an environmental disaster. It won’t just pollute the air with hazardous materials — it will create a small oil spill as well. Burning just one passenger car tire can produce two gallons of oil, according to the EPA, and 5 million tires could spill about 275,000 gallons of oil on the ground.

To get a sense of how nasty these things are, check out this video of a 1954 tire fire in Toronto:

[youtube http://youtu.be/Qv81m_AUSxA%5D

In the U.S. some states actually burn scrap tires for fuel, but it’s also possible to recycle them. The worst thing to do with a whole bunch of used tires is pile them up and hope they don’t catch fire. That’s a lesson Kuwait is learning the hard way.