Compost pile self-ignites, causes wildfire

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:17 AM

The wind was pushing toward the River Run subdivision late Monday night, said Lt. Brian Sipe, fire marshal of the Spring Lake Township Fire Department.

Firefighters were sent to the cul-de-sac end of River Bend Drive, off Leonard Road, about 10:15 p.m. when a homeowner there saw flames being pushed by strong winds toward his house, Sipe said. The fire turned out to be on the back of the property at 15608 Rannes Road, occupied by David Fischer.

Sipe said Fischer’s father had apparently been dumping leaves in the area for years and the composting process eventually created enough heat to start a fire.

“You could see it had been smoldering for quite a while,” Sipe said.

There’s a chemical process during the breakdown of plant materials, which releases heat, Sipe explained. When the material is not stirred, the heat is not released and builds up to the point that the material starts to smolder.

Although the fire was primarily contained to the pile, strong winds blew embers into the neighbor’s yard and started some small fires, Sipe said.

The homeowner plans to remove the leaf pile from the property, he added.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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