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W.Va. fire starts again

March 19, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - A fire at a huge mulch pile near Shepherdstown Thursday may have been caused by a cigarette that was tossed into some grass, said Shepherdstown Fire Department Chief Leon Catrow.

Firefighters responded to the scene again about 7 a.m. Friday to extinguish some "hot spots" in the pile of mulch, Catrow said.

The fire broke out at Lowe Products Co., which manufactures mulch from tree bark and bags it for distribution.

The fire caused heavy smoke which drifted across Shepherdstown. Workers at Lowe Products off W.Va. 45 behind Potomac Farms Nursery tried to put out the morning fire by themselves, but winds caused the blaze to jump from pile to pile.

Firefighters from Jefferson County, Berkeley County and Virginia and Maryland battled the blaze throughout the day Thursday.

Some firefighters guarded the scene through the night Thursday to make sure it did not flare up again, said Lowe General Manager Stephanie Hilker.

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Several Lowe employees will probably be stationed at the pile through the next few nights to make sure there are no problems, Hilker said.

Hilker said damage estimates are unclear. Much of the mulch appeared to be salvageable because it was only scortched on the surface, she said.

A Division of Natural Resources official said fire can break out easily in mulch piles because they generate heat in the center as the material decomposes. Mulch pile operators are urged to turn the piles regularly with a bulldozer to prevent heat from building up inside, said Bill Timmermeyer, environmental inspector with the agency.

Hilker said the pile at Lowe Products was turned periodically.

Hilker said workers were preparing to bag the mulch next Monday.

"Mother Nature beat us to it," Hilker said.

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