Mulch Spontaneously Combusts - NBC Connecticut

Mulch Spontaneously Combusts

Decomposing pile of storm debris catch fire in Wethersfield



    Mulch Spontaneously Combusts
    Katherine Strobel
    Mulch spontaneously combusted.

    It sounds like something out of a bad high school science experiment, but town leaders in Wethersfield say they've got a case of spontaneous combustion on their hands.

    Since last fall's snowstorm, the town has compiled a major pile mulch after cleaning up all the debris. 

    In fact, there are 10,000 cubic yards of it decomposing on town property near several cemeteries on Jordan Lane Extension. 

    Here's where the science comes in: all that decomposing mulch generates a lot of heat. There is so much heat that it can catch fire when it gets enough oxygen. The smoking mulch has been such an issue that several people have called 911.

    In most winters, this wouldn't be a big problem, but Wethersfield Town Engineer Michael Turner said the mild weather is only making things worse. 

    "Typically, if the weather was much colder, if we had snow cover, the heat would generally melt the snow slowly into the pile, and keep the smoke and heat contained," Turner said.  "But in this case here, we haven't had either."

    To deal with the problem, The Town Council on Tuesday night voted to hire Connecticut Bark Mulch, a licensed facility based in Enfield, to pick up the pile and dispose of or resell the mulch.  That's coming at a cost of $40,000.

    It takes about 90 days for mulch to start smoking, and since Wethersfield was one of the first towns in the state to start collecting storm debris, we might be in store for more smoking mulch across Connecticut.