Mulch fire causes serious damages

By Ali Monsen

Published 07/11 2014 12:42PM

Updated 07/11 2014 12:48PM

SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – Business owners are angry, Friday, after a what they call a 'preventable' mulch fire caused severe damages.

What used to be an environmental testing lab is now a pile of soggy debris.  The worst part for business owners is that they saw this fire coming. 

"This should've never happened,” said Kyle Gross, Lab Director for American West Analytical Laboratories.

Gross says his company has lost at least half a million dollars' worth of equipment.  He says the massive pile of compost behind his building is to blame.

"All of the businesses here have been very unhappy about that for several years now, so we've been trying to get something done," Gross explained.

Just last week, a smaller blaze left them scrambling for answers.

"I talked to the fire marshal and said, ' You realize this is going to happen again…’”

And it did.  Fire authorities agree that the compost site is a hazard.

"The heat temperatures, the hotness of the compost, the spontaneous combustion..." said Chief Kevin Bowman with South Salt Lake Fire Dept.

Until the mulch pit is reduced, authorities say fires will continue to burn.

"We could dump as much water as we had on that thing, and still, we're not going to get that water down into the really bottom part of that pile.  It's just so thick and so dense in there," Bowman explained.

Sharon Opfermann owns a business down the street.  It is called Camp Bow Wow. 

“I’ve been up for a long, long time.  I stayed up through the night, and I'm really tired, so I'm kind of punchy right now," said Opfermann, Friday morning.

Opfermann's doggy day care center is now running on generator power.  The 53 dogs in her facility are safe, but she says she is losing patience.

"The mulch yard is not an appropriate business for this area," Opfermann said.   

The compost pile has become a safety issue, and these business owners say they are disappointed the dangerous situation has escalated this far.

“Hopefully now something will be done; unfortunately, it's a little too late,” said Gross.

Fire authorities say they will meet with the mayor and the compost company to discuss how to manage the site as soon as possible.

One firefighter did go to the hospital for smoke inhalation but was released early Friday morning. 

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