A fire broke out in a 35-foot tall mulch pile behind the East Hampton Recycling Center in the early morning hours Thursday.
An East Hampton Town police officer on patrol, who is also a volunteer firefighter, noticed a large amount of smoke rising from the pile and requested the East Hampton Fire Department to the town highway department property off Springs Fireplace Road at about 3:20 a.m., according to Chief Gerard Turza Jr.
“We arrived to find a small fire on the side/upper portion of a 35-foot tall pile of mulch,” Turza said. “Luckily, it was more of a surface fire as compared to something more deep-seated.”
Firefighters responded with two engines, two tankers and a tower ladder. They used a deck gun atop one of the engines and extinguished the blaze quickly. They turned it over to town highway department personnel, who were standing by with a payloader to move the mulch around. East Hampton Town Highway Superintendent Stephen Lynch responded as well.
The fire was not suspicious. The chief explained that mulch is a combustible material that generates heat, especially when in large piles. “The natural decomposition process, coupled with high temperatures and dry conditions all contribute to the spontaneous combination, causing open flames to erupt,” he said. The recent rainfall may have only made it worse, he said, as the damp exterior traps the heat inside of the pile.
The firefighters were put back in service at 4:35 a.m.