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Mulch fire keeps crews busy in W.Va.

February 07, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

RIPPON, W.Va. - Fire broke out Sunday afternoon in a large pile of mulch along U.S. 340 near Rippon in Jefferson County, requiring a combination of firefighting crews and construction equipment to get it stopped, a fire official said.

Todd Wilt, a fire police officer with Citizens Fire Co., noticed the fire at Tyson's Tree Wood Recyclers as he was passing through the area, said Ed Smith, chief of Independent Fire Co.

Smith said he could see the smoke from the north side of Rippon as he was driving to the scene.

Fire crews from every fire department in Jefferson County responded to the scene and firefighting equipment also was sent from Maryland and Virginia, fire officials said.

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Three front-end loaders were used to push out the burning sections of the mulch pile so it could be extinguished by firefighters, Smith said.

Smith said he believes the fire started as a result of a naturally occurring process that is typical with mulch piles. When mulch is kept in a large pile, sometimes it will generate intense heat, Smith said.

When fire crews arrived after getting the call at 2:44 p.m., one fire was burning on the surface of the pile and another fire was burning deep inside the pile, Smith said.

The fire was under control by late afternoon, although construction crews still were spreading the mulch while firefighters sprayed it down.

"It's a long, slow, tedious operation," Smith said.

At one point, about 1,000 cubic yards of mulch were on fire, Smith said.

Smith said he talked to the owner of the business after fire crews received the call and the owner suggested letting it burn.

Smith said because he could not get in touch with anyone with the federal Environmental Protection Agency to determine if that would be allowed, fire crews were forced to extinguish it.

The business, near the West Virginia/Virginia state line south of Rippon, makes mulch by grinding tree stumps, Smith said.

It has been in business for about a year, Smith said.

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