Mulch fire extinguished, but a problem remains
TOWN OF LA PRAIRIE A Thursday fire that broke out in a huge pile of decomposing mulch left officials wondering who would pay for putting it out.
The business that produced the mulch appears to be defunct, said town of Turtle Fire Chief Tim Huffman, and it's possible the rotting mulch could produce enough heat to start another fire.
"That's a big concern of ours," he said.
No one was injured, and the mulch is in an isolated area, so no homes were threatened, Huffman said.
The fire was reported at 6:57 a.m. Thursday at Bedrock Grinding, 1105 E. La Prairie-Turtle Townline Road between Janesville and Beloit. Fourteen fire departments backed up the town of Turtle Fire Department, most of them ferrying water to the scene, Huffman said.
Firefighters were on the scene most of the day. Huffman called in excavating equipment to pull the mulch pile apart to isolate the fire. The cost of that equipment is a major concern, and town officials are trying to figure out whom they can bill, Huffman said.
Bedrock Grinding's phone number is disconnected or no longer in service, according to a recorded message.
Huffman said the business ground used pallets to make the mulch. If the piles are not turned, heat generated by decomposition of the wood can build inside the piles, leading to spontaneous combustion.
"This place is absolutely huge—just millions of pallets and mulch," Huffman said.
Huffman said 120,000 gallons of water was poured onto the fire. The tankers that hauled water to the fire hold about 3,000 gallons, he said.
Huffman said most of the firefighters are volunteers with jobs who took the day off to fight the fire.
"I don't want to go through this again," he said.
Area firefighters fought a similar fire in May in a big mulch pile in Poplar Grove, Ill.