The Campbell River Fire Department tweeted this photo of a mulch fire on Midport Road, in an industrial area in North Campbell River on Monday.

Pile of wood mulch ‘spontaneously combusts’ at Vancouver Island industrial site

Business owner thanks fire department for quick response

Spontaneous combustion caused a large pile of wood mulch to catch fire at an industrial site in Campbell River on Monday, says local fire chief Thomas Doherty.

He says the phenomenon is not uncommon when heaps of damp wood chips or mulch are involved, due to water heating up inside the pile.

“Over time, as the temperature changes, they will start to heat up inside the pile and basically spontaneously combust,” he said. “The pile will start to burn deep inside.”

Firefighters were dispatched on Monday afternoon after someone reported flames rising from the pile.

Crews attended the scene with a fire engine and tower truck, which they used to get “deep water penetration into the pile,” Doherty said.

Firefighters estimated the burning pile was roughly 50 feet high and 100 feet wide, he said.

The business itself used heavy machinery to take apart the pile and used a hose to continue putting out the fire once firefighters got it under control, he said.

READ MORE: Shrapnel narrowly missed firefighters in ‘suspicious’ house fire

READ MORE: Firefighters reunite small dog with child after quelling blaze

John Ellis, owner of Courtenay-based Pacific Wood Waste, thanked firefighters for their quick attention to the incident.

“They were a tremendous help,” he said. “It’s situations like this that you realize that they’re such an asset to have.”

He said the woody composting material is used for fuel at pulp mills and landscaping.

On Tuesday morning, ashy debris was visible in a pile of bark mulch at the site. Steam rose from the wet pile, and a worker said he used an excavator to remove the top of the mulch and ensure water entered the heap.

An image from Google Maps shows the approximate location of a chip fire that took place in an industrial area of North Campbell River on Aug. 19, 2019.  

Doherty said there was no risk to the public or any structures in the area, noting that a good fire break surrounded the pile, though he added that spot fires could result if the weather was hotter and more embers were coming off the pile.

He said the fire department has encountered the issue of spontaneous combustion of wood debris before.

“We had a few calls out there this year already for that same pile, and every year we have the same thing,” he said, adding that similar issues crop up at another yard waste facility in Campbell River.

A pile of wood mulch ‘spontaneously combusted’ in North Campbell River on Aug. 19, 2019, according to the Campbell River Fire Department. A worker is shown at the scene on Aug. 20. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Province willing to talk with Lantzville about traffic management for Island Highway

Lantzville councillor plans to ask ministry to install traffic time signs on Highway 19

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Lack of coverage of Liberals was ‘chauvinism’

There’s a responsibility to report a balanced gender approach to this campaign, says letter writer

Winter preparation underway for mid-Island highways

Drivers reminded to ready vehicles for changing conditions

Bear sightings up significantly in Parksville Qualicum Beach area

Fruit trees number one food attractant, says conservation officer

V.I. Raiders win, wait to find out playoff foe

Raiders defeat Valley Huskers 13-6 in BCFC regular-season finale

LETTER: Middle class better off with Trudeau’s child benefit boost

It’s a transfer, not a tax cut, but it helps families get ahead

App designed to help cut waste and grocery bills

Food security advocates say addressing poverty is ultimate key

Report suggests new BC Ferries terminal near YVR

Metro Vancouver currently has two ferry terminals at northern and southern reaches

B.C. scouting group’s tent destroyed by black bear on Thanksgiving

The Richmond-based Sea Dragon Sea Scouts were camping at Mount Seymour Provincial Park

Environment Canada issues gale warnings for western Vancouver Island

Gale warnings in effect for most of Vancouver Island and west coast Mainland

BC Ferries crew member taken to hospital after getting struck by bow doors

Two sailings between Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay were cancelled

Greta Thunberg meets with First Nations chief in Fort McMurray

Thunberg has turned her protest against climate change into a global movement

Most Read