Archived Story

Hot ash starts fire at station

Published 11:08am Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Trash and ash: They’re two things that don’t mix and could be dangerous for waste transfer stations across the county.

A fire occurred in a dumpster box that receives garbage from a trash compactor at the waste transfer station in Battle Lake on June 29.

The county determined the fire was from ash that had been improperly left in a trash bin and came in contact with other garbage.

The dumpster box was damaged by the heat of the fire and was down for a couple hours.

The compactor will not need to be replaced by the county, however.

While the Battle Lake Fire Department extinguished the fire before any more damage could be done, the situation could have been much more severe.

“If it hadn’t been discovered right away it could have burned the whole building,” said Zach Fjestad, Public Information and Education Officer for the county solid waste department. “It can spread pretty quickly, especially if it is allowed to smolder.”

Even when it is allowed to set for several days, ash can remain warm and cause a fire once it is moved or disturbed if not dealt with properly.

Because of the hazard, it is illegal in Otter Tail County to dispose of any ash in garbage, recycling or at a landfill.

All fireplace or wood stove ash should be allowed to cool in a metal bin and spread lightly across the soil of a garden or field. Residents should also avoid spreading ash in overly dry areas as well and make sure to mix it with the soil.

Wood ash is a good natural fertilizer for vegetable and flower gardens.

The University of Minnesota Extension Service reports that one pound of ash spread over 10 square feet of a garden contains three to nine percent potassium.

Garbage ash, however, is considered a hazardous waste. It is illegal to burn garbage in burning barrels and other garbage burning containers in the state of Minnesota.

Fjestad said that ash disposal has been a problem elsewhere in the state, and is certainly something the county continues to inform residents about.

“It’s always on going educating the public,” Fjestad said. “A lot of residents are just unaware they’re not supposed to put ash in bins for their collectors to pick up.”

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