Gelio Hernandez had turned his land into a giant garbage fire.
Gelio Hernandez had turned his land into a giant garbage fire.
via Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office

Miami Man Arrested After 40-Foot-High Flaming Garbage Dump Found on His Land

Miami-Dade is a gigantic county, larger than Rhode Island, packed with two million people and perpetually understaffed and overworked regulators. All of which is to say, you can get away with a lot of crazy stuff on a remote piece of land: cockfighting rings, grow-house empires, illegal horse slaughterhouses.

Even in Dade County, though, allowing a massive, 40-foot-high flaming pile of garbage to build up on your land is bound to catch some attention. Gelio Justino Hernandez learned that the hard way this week when smoke-choked neighbors called the cops, who arrested and charged him with running a huge illegal dump on three acres of land in northwest Dade.

“Miami-Dade’s pristine beauty is what draws people to our community,” State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle says in a release on the charges. “Environmental crimes not only destroy that beauty but they can endanger our water table and contaminate our air, posing health risks to everyone living here."

Hernandez is apparently no stranger to the Miami-Dade Division of Environmental Resources Management, which helped investigate the case. State records show he's been charged at least eight times since the '90s with everything from running an unlicensed business to grand theft to repeated cases of environmental permit violations.

This time, Miami-Dade police and fire units were called to Hernandez's land, which sits at NW 162nd Street and 122nd Avenue, because his insanely large unpermitted dump had caught on fire. Hernandez had piled up mass quantities of flammable stuff, including everything from wood and roofing materials to five-gallon oil buckets, carpets, plant waste, and tires.

When the heap recently caught fire, it created "a large amount of smoke, causing people on neighboring properties to leave their properties and businesses, and move their animals to safer locations," police say. Firefighters spent more than two weeks battling the blaze, struggling to contain it.

Hernandez now faces two felony counts of operating an illegal landfill plus a misdemeanor of failing to obtain a permit to store, process, or dispose of solid waste.

Don't let your giant, illegal trash dumps catch on fire, people.

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