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Compost Fire???

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Compost Fire???

Post  H_TX_2 on 6/24/2013, 3:05 pm

Compost Fire

I can believe stories I have heard about large commercial compost piles combusting but I think even for those large piles this is rare. I sort of find this hard to believe. A home compost pile probably would not be big enough to spontaneously combust. The article says it occurred in the morning and the fire department arrived at 5:29 a.m. This seems like the least likely time for something like this (I'm not even sure it is possible to begin with) to happen since it is the coolest time of the day.

Anyone have any ideas as to what might have happened here?

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Re: Compost Fire???

Post  camprn on 6/24/2013, 3:16 pm

There is not enough information in the news article to determine what happened to ignite the compost pile.

The ambient temperature has little to do with the internal temperature of a compost pile. It's all biology and chemistry.

Maybe it was a cigarette butt or some other external ignition, unless it was a very large pile.

http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/components/3296-03.html

Mulch fires are quite common.

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Re: Compost Fire???

Post  bwaynef on 6/25/2013, 10:41 am

I dont have any information as to the size of it, but a guy I work with had his compost pile catch fire and he had to replace siding on his house.

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Re: Compost Fire???

Post  littlejo on 6/25/2013, 11:21 am

My Grandpa, yrs. ago, had a barn full of hay catch fire. It was not real dry before it was bailed. The right ingredients, with the right amt. of moisture, and some nitrogen will make a great fire or a bomb (remember the fertilizer plant in Texas)
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Re: Compost Fire???

Post  jazzycat on 6/25/2013, 1:20 pm

Should I be worried about the pile of wood chips on the side of my house?  I'm slowly moving them to the backyard (about 1/3 of the way done), but there are still a lot there.  When I dig in where there is spanish moss, I can feel heat (not too bad, but noticeable) and I can also see steam.  (Or maybe it's the mold being disturbed, because the moss already has the white mold growing and breaking it down.  The leaves and chips don't.)

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Re: Compost Fire???

Post  donnainzone5 on 6/25/2013, 1:24 pm

I heard from a local Master Gardener last fall that the city of Bend experiences approximately two house fires each year because of spontaneous ignition of wood chips or mulch near the foundation.

I'd ask others in your community, especially gardening experts, such as your local Extension Agent, if you need to be concerned. Meanwhile, it's prudent to move those chips, in my opinion.

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Re: Compost Fire???

Post  jazzycat on 6/25/2013, 10:42 pm

YIKES!  I guess I'd better get on it then!  It's not like I'm slacking off or anything.  I have to do all myself, and it's unbearably HOT here in the middle of the day.  I work in the early mornings and later in the afternoons.  Take two showers a day.  I have to take a day off now and then though because of my back.  I have issues.

Anyway.  Good to know.  Thanks for the info!

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Re: Compost Fire???

Post  GWN on 6/25/2013, 11:46 pm

4 years ago we had a forest fire that started in our yard, in coastal oregon...... ambient temp about 60. We had a large pile of brush, and we hired some guys to put the stuff through our chipper. It was an industrial chipper. We had a 4 wheeler (atv) that these guys were using to hoist the bushes into the chipper. They parked the 4 wheeler by the brush pile and went for lunch. I was looking out over the pile and noticed a strange whirling pattern in the air and seconds later the entire pile ignited, it was about 10 feet high, by 20, by 20. I could not believe my eyes and it took a minute to realize what was happening. If I had not seen it all and called 911, the entire neighbourhood likely would have gone up. And this was in an area where the ambient temp was pretty cool, and there was no wind.

The 4 wheeler quickly ignited, fortunately the chipper did not ignite. I gained a new respect for fire. We hauled out our hoses, which did absolutely nothing, they were a joke.

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Re: Compost Fire???

Post  jazzycat on 6/26/2013, 5:41 pm

So what actually caused the fire, GWN? Was it the wood chips? Were they too dry?

The pile in my driveway is too wet to burn, I think. It's been raining a lot the last 2-3 days, off and on. Isn't it hard for wet/damp wood to burn?

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Re: Compost Fire???

Post  GWN on 6/26/2013, 5:53 pm

sorry... what actually caused the fire was that the guys working with the 4 wheeler, left it alongside the pile, and the tail pipe was touching the pile.
And it was not incredibly dry either.
SO it was just an exhaust pipe left touching something I guess

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Re: Compost Fire???

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