Mo. expert to examine stump fire Special foam offered as way to halt blaze

February 09, 1991|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Baltimore County Bureau of The Sun Roger Twigg of The Sun's metropolitan staff contributed to this article.

A fire expert from Missouri is flying to Maryland to study the possibility of applying a special firefighting foam he says will put out a pesky stump fire in western Baltimore County that has shrouded much of metropolitan area in smoke this week.

Richard McCann, who operates a specialized fire suppression firm in Nixa, Mo., would be paid $20,000 by the county if he were hired to fight the fire in a stump dump at the Patapsco Valley Tree Farm in the 8700 block of Dogwood Road near Granite.

Battalion Fire Chief Ralph Nelson of Baltimore County said Mr. McCann contacted county fire officials after he heard their nationwide call for help Monday over the International Association of Fire Chiefs Computer Network.

Putting out the fire has proved to be extremely difficult because it remains buried under a small mountain of stumps that is 75 feet tall at its highest point.

Battling the blaze is costing the county an estimated $10,000 a day for rental of 12 cranes, bulldozers and other heavy equipment to move earth and keep the fire from spreading, Chief Nelson said.

County firefighters have been working to put the fire out since last weekend. Without specialized help, the fire could persist another month, Chief Nelson said, adding that "at this point, we're open to suggestions."

Mr. McCann, 39, said he planned to hose the pile of stumps with Phos-Chek WD 881, a foam made by the Monsanto Chemical Co. that penetrates down through a surface to smother the fire. He expects to look over the site today.

"Based on what I've been told over the phone, it should take a week to 10 days to put out," said Mr. McCann, who has operated a firm called Team Kodiak for about two years and has been a fire suppression consultant for six years.

Team Kodiak has used the foam to help fight forest fires in the West as well as other landfill fires.

Larry Vandersall, research manager of Monsanto's Wildfire Division in Ontario, Calif., where the foam is made, said it was mixed with compressed air and water before it was sprayed from a hose. It should extinguish the fire and smother the smoke, he said.

Unlike foams used to fight liquid petroleum fires, the mixture is designed to filter through cracks and crevices to reach the fire, Mr. Vandersall said.

Baltimore County fire officials also backed away yesterday from earlier statements by a spokesman that they had decided not to ask for help from firefighters in Baltimore because the city staffed most of its fire equipment with crews of only three people.

Fire Chief Elwood H. Banister dismissed that statement as incorrect yesterday, saying city and county fire crews had always worked well together and would continue to work together.

"We welcome whatever assistance they can provide," Chief Banister said yesterday. So far, city firefighters have not been asked to assist.

Fire officials said that the fire was still termed "suspicious" and that its cause remained under investigation.

County environmental records show the stump dump at James F. Jett's farm has been a source of community concern as far back as 1982, when records show neighbors began complaining about traffic and noise.

The Patapsco Community Association, the group that represents neighboring homeowners, has scheduled a meeting to discuss the site at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Granite Presbyterian Church on the 10600 section of Old Court Road in Granite.

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