USA — Needham Fire Rescue Chief Kevin Hosler was on his way to Corpus Christi with his family Saturday afternoon when smoke drew his attention to the towering flames at a mulch yard.
Seconds later, Needham units were dispatched about 11/2 miles east of Interstate 45 on Texas 242 to a mulch pile that had caught fire from the dry conditions, burning a pile 300 feet long and 20 feet high, Hosler said.
The first caL went out at 3:36 p.m. Saturday, and by 7 p.m., the blaze had engulfed even more, measuring 350 feet long, 35 feet high and 125 feet wide.
Nine departments were on scene battling the flames, along with a bulldozer and an engine from the Texas Forest Service. But Hosler said the lack of water from reservoir ponds caused departments to rely on other water sources, such as city systems and water from a nearby sand pit.
“A mulch pile just spontaneously lit,” he said. “With the dry conditions we were unable to contain it.”
A reservoir pond on the property is normally 12-14 feet deep, but Hosler said the drought conditions have dried it up to only a few inches, providing only a short supply to the rescue teams.
No employees were on scene, as the yard was closed Saturday, Hosler said. The company’s sprinkler system was issuing a steady stream of water before the fire started, but it was no match for the heat.
“(The mulch is) already decomposing and as it decomposes it generates heat,” he said. “Add in the dry conditions and the heat and you get this.”
The last fire at the yard was about 12 years ago under old management, Hosler said, adding that the owner’s sprinkler system was adequate fire prevention.
“The company was really doing everything that they could do, he said. But in this heat theres nothing you can do.
As of 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Stuart Norman, spokesperson for the Needham FD, said the fire had been contained to the yard.
The fire got into the tree line on the west side, but we were able to contain it with a secondary attack off River Road, Norman said.
Fire crews stayed on the scene overnight, Norman said, and command was passed on Sunday. The fire was out at 3:46 p.m. that afternoon.
We had some minor heat-related injuries, but nobody was transported, and all units have been released, Norman said. Were just monitoring every hour with the booster truck now.