MARYLAND

Upper Marlboro mulch pile continues to smolder

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Firefighters have put out a huge mulch fire in Prince George's County, but concerns it could start again still remain. The fire started Wednesday night on Ritchie Marlboro Road in Upper Marlboro and sent huge flames shooting into the sky.

Officials say the fire will continue to smolder for a few days while fire crews continue to extinguish it.

The 30-by-100 foot pile of mulch caught fire at about 8 p.m., sending a massive plume of smoke into the sky and illuminating the night with heavy flames.

It looked similar to a volcanic eruption, and at 5 million cubic feet, the mulch file was certainly mountainous. Officials say a natural and spontaneous combustion from decomposition heat may have caused the fire. 

“It can cause itself to ignite within the pike and come to the surface, but the entire pile was on fire,” says Deputy Chief Benjamin Barksdale. 

The pile continued to burn through the night. Firefighters struggled to find water; the nearest hydrant was a mile away. They ended up running 3,000 feet of hose from a nearby school, but the fire continued to burn until a truck sprayed a layer of fire-smothering foam. Heavy equipment spread dirt over the flames.

The last flames were extinguished around 4 a.m., but trucks were still taking dirt up the hill Thursday to douse the mulch. 

“I mean, it just happens. Seems to many different things happen around [here]. Just not surprised anymore,” says Robert Turner.

The on-sight fire commander says it was a dramatic battle, but there were no injuries and there was never a threat to the property.

“The mulch pile, while it was immense in size, contained to a specific area with gravel and dirt around,” says Barksdale. 

Fire crews from throughout the region, including several regional airports, Joint Base Andrews and units from as far away as Charles County, responded to help battle the massive fire.

By 4 a.m., officials say much of of the visible surface fire had been put out, but crews remained on standby while the pile continued to smolder. No people or buildings were ever threatened by the huge fire.

Many of the 150 firefighters who responded also were called upon to put out small brush fires that were caused by flying embers carried by strong winds.

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