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

Don’t miss this year’s grad fashionistas in Courtenay

Isfeld Secondary hosts the Annual Grad Fashion Show on Nov. 18

Celebrate Louis Riel Day in Comox

IKI’SIW Métis Association is celebrating Louis Riel Day on Nov. 16

More rain may mean more leachate at landfill in Cumberland

Staff considering ways to mitigate situation of excess leachate at site

Elevate plans to do concert series in Cumberland again

Summer event aims to make the arts barrier-free for the community

SLIDESHOW: Remembrance Day in Courtenay

The annual ceremony took place in front of a large crowd under rainy skies.

Transgender inmate in Surrey denied transfer to women’s prison

Petitioner argued denial of transfer to women’s prison was unreasonable and unfair

Community uses loophole to paint 16 rainbow crosswalks after B.C. council says no

So far 11 rainbows are painted and five planned, all since council denied the first proposal in September

Adoption centre closes despite effort to save it; B.C. left with two agencies

Choices Adoption and Pregnancy Counselling in Victoria was set to close in April

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh to meet with Trudeau today to discuss throne speech

Top ask will be for Liberal support for the immediate creation of a national universal pharmacare program

B.C. set to announce changes around youth vaping, regulations

Move will involved education, tightening access, working with partners and pressuring the federal government

Yelling at your dog might hurt its long-term mental health: study

Researchers find dogs trained using negative reinforcement are more ‘pessimistic’

Vancouver Island soap company releases Lucky Lager beer soap

Beer-infused olive oil soap comes out just in time for holiday shopping

Most Read