Rain Makes Fire

by John Robertson

At about 0800 on 13th March we got yet another page to the infamous green waste dump which was again emitting considerable smoke. 51 and 52 scarcely need drivers for this turnout so well do they now know the road! In fact Rory drove 52 with Robbo; Barry drove 51 with Neville and Mal (Pritchard); Roger and TM1 came independently. Rory was I/C. The Auxiliaries also came and refilled 51 with water.
Using the rakehoe on the smoking points showed that the situation was as before. There is a mass of very hot material deep in the pile; in places, a column of heat reaches the surface and the mulch in contact with the air starts to smoulder. Since our last visit the pile had again built up and there was almost no space to spread the hot material. We did our own thing and thoroughly watered the hot spots exposed with the rakehoe. This suppressed the smoke entirely. The internal mass of the heap no doubt remains as hot as before. The decision, in cooperation with Coles, was to live with this – especially given the wide earth break created around the site on Saturday. Coles undertook to take some ten truck loads off the site to lower the height of the mulch. They will monitor continuously and contact us via Tony if they need our help.
This fire is unusual in being the result of heavy rain. The damp conditions aided the microbial action and made the pile hotter internally. More important was the effect of the very wet summer on gardeners and landscapers. Normally they are full chat during this time and the mulch goes off the site faster than it can be produced. Not so this season and with lack of demand the pile became very large and very high. The critical height for reaching internal combustion temperatures is around 3 metres and most of the pile is higher than that. So we have the paradox that rain made fire. Happily the Brigade response has been exemplary throughout.

(See earlier report on this fire)


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