Stump dump fire jogs memories of 18-month blaze

September 16, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

Just the words "fire" and "stump dump" used in the same sentence are enough to make most Baltimore County officials extremely nervous.

That's why a small fire yesterday in a large pile of mulch at Patapsco Valley Farms on Dogwood Road in Granite attracted top county government officials along with two fire engines and eight tanker trucks to the site of the 1991-1992 stump dump fire.

The fire, reported at 6:45 a.m. yesterday at the top of a mulch pile 18 feet high and 50 feet long, was "real minor," said Fire Specialist Ronald Schneider, a county Fire Department spokesman.

James F. Jett, owner of Patapsco Valley Farms, once had a five-acre dump for tree stumps, piled 100 feet high in some places. It burst into flames early on the morning of Feb. 2, 1991, and burned for more than 18 months. In the early days of the fire, smoke drifted from the dump into neighborhoods from Woodlawn to White Marsh.

County Administrative Officer Merreen E. Kelly, who visited the site yesterday, said the smoke from the mulch pile fire couldn't be seen from Dogwood Road, which fronts the property. The mulch was at the crest of the hill at the entrance to the old stump dump site, where a state construction trailer once sat.

Front-end loaders pulled down the pile and spread the mulch out over the ground, while Fire Department tanker trucks brought in water from nearby Brice's Run to douse the smoldering wood chips, Mr. Schneider said. The fire, thought to have been caused by spontaneous combustion, was out by 4 p.m., officials said.

After months of efforts to douse the original fire, the Maryland Environmental Service extinguished it by burying it under 100,000 cubic yards of dirt at a cost to Baltimore County of more than $700,000.

Under an agreement reached with the county last November, Mr. Jett was allowed to resume storing and mulching tree stumps on a third of the land. Mr. Kelly said air quality officials inspected the site yesterday to try to determine if any regulations related to the agreement were violated.

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