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Gary350
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Spontaneous Combustion in the Compost.

I raked the dead tree leaves out of my bushes and put them in the compost. I swept up some saw dust on the garage floor and put it in the compost. I raked some pine needles too and put them in the compost. I mowed my grass and put that in the compost. The neighbor mowed his grass and I put it in my compost. It has been sunny and hot 95 degrees. The first day the compost started giving off a very strong smell. The second day it started to smoke or maybe steam and it smelled stronger. The third day the smell is very strong and it is giving off a lot more smoke. The forth day it was giving off a lot more smoke and smelling mush worse. The fifth day it is smoking very bad lots of white smoke filling the whole yard and it smells like something burning. There is a continious stream of white smoke and the wind is blowing it through the neighbor hood. The fire department showed up and put it out. I told them not to spray any toxic poison on it so they used only water. It was not hurting anything and there was no flames but they wanted it put out.

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jstrausss
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WOW never heard of that happening

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soil
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lol how big was your pile.
For all things come from earth, and all things end by becoming earth.

greenstubbs
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I have to ask. Why didn't you on the second day go out with the hose and hose it down just to CYA if you smelled smoke and saw it smoking? I know I would have! I hate to say this but, that's just plain odd on your part for not doing that. Hope you don't get a bill from the F.D.

SOB
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A co-worker had a cardboard bag of grass clippings, leaves, etc waiting by the road for the yard waste pickup and had his start smoking. It heated up at the bottom of the bag so much it got close to starting.

It sounds like you just had the perfect moisture, mixture and aeration that things wanted to take off!

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Gary350
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greenstubbs wrote:I have to ask. Why didn't you on the second day go out with the hose and hose it down just to CYA if you smelled smoke and saw it smoking? I know I would have! I hate to say this but, that's just plain odd on your part for not doing that. Hope you don't get a bill from the F.D.
The second day it smelled like grass cooking not a real fire. The smell got stronger and stronger each day but it did not smell like something burning until the last day. I poked around on it and tried to stir it with a shovel but it kept smoking. I let mother nature than it course. The fire department tries to control nature that is why they try to put our forest fires too.

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jstrausss
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I really think the FD dos it to keep people safe. They also do controled burns to help nature.

greenstubbs
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Gary350 wrote:The second day it smelled like grass cooking not a real fire. The smell got stronger and stronger each day but it did not smell like something burning until the last day. I poked around on it and tried to stir it with a shovel but it kept smoking. I let mother nature than it course. The fire department tries to control nature that is why they try to put our forest fires too.
But you saw smoke, this is the second time you've said that. You just don't get it do you? Where there's smoke, there's fire.

2cents
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They say many of our land fills are on fire deep under the surface.
Mount Rumpke as it is called just outside Cincinnati, a couple years ago was reported to have been on fire(100+ ft below the surface) for over a year......Wow

around 1970 dad picked up several truck loads of corn cobs.....a few months later July/August memory has faded, but it was hot outside.
It smoked and cobs were charred. Can't say we necessarily saw flames.
But it burned off n on for weeks, we were using water to put it out......a few days later it would start up again.

DOD came home from work one day and told us never to use water on it again.....we spread it out some to under 5 feet tall It was a Big big pile of compost........ And it stopped burning.......appearantly the water was a part of the problem with it building up heat.

SOB
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I don't think we need to sit here and interrogate Gary as to why he did or didnt do something. He was posting his experience and hoping people would learn from it. Everyone that has a compost pile has a chance of this happening.

I just wish my pile would get over 110 degrees :)

rot
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hot stuff

..
No. I think we need to interrogate gary so we can repeat it.

Instantaneous combustion? How cool is that? Really? I've read about stories in the paper and on the internet (I saw it on the internet so it must be true) but it still strikes me sometimes as something that requires a tin foil hat to really make it happen.

The sole reason for the existence of any fire department is to put out fires. That's what they do. Might as well beat on a dog for being a dog.

So dead tree leaves, saw dust, pine needles and some grass clippings and then some more grass clippings. Did you mix it all together or just layer it? How much of each stuff - give us your best guess. This is for science now. Don't be shy. Maybe we'll need some power tools?

While you're at it, don't forget to share the plans for that big bug zapper.

Share the fun please

to sense
..

SOB
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Re: hot stuff

rot wrote:..
Maybe we'll need some power tools?
..
OK, I like where this is going. Is there any way we can get some duct tape involved too???

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rainbowgardener
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Sounds like one thing that helped was that everything was in very fine pieces, saw dust, pine needles, grass clippings. I know that makes a difference in my pile. The most it heats up is when I add duck weed skimmed from my pond. That stuff is not only rich N source, but in very fine particles. The pile smokes a bit then and gets that white ashy looking stuff in it (which I have read here, may not actually be ashes, but only happens when the pile is really hot).

So if you want your pile really hot, run everything you can through a grinder first...
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toxcrusadr
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If it had a very strong smell of grass decomposing, it is likely the pile was a bit too high in greens. Those fresh grass clippings have a lot of N, especially if you fertilize the lawn. I've had fresh mixed piles that were too high in grass begin to smell and get very hot (180 is my record). Or perhaps they were dumped in large clumps and not mixed in, which not only can became very hot but will quickly go anaerobic once they mat down and use up all their air from cooking so fast.

The thing about spontaneous combustion is that you can't do it if you try! Conditions have to be juuuuust right...
Tox

2cents
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For those who've not had the unusual opportunity to see this happen, I'm including a couple web addresses.
Most of us don't have the room to create a large enough pile for spontaneous combustion.

Check out these Iowa stories.

https://timesrepublican.com/page/content.detail/id/535233/Corn-cob-fire-at-Green-Products----.html

https://www.news-gazette.com/news/courts-police-and-fire/2010-01-05/corn-cob-pile-catches-fire-near-st-joseph.html

Dad's pile was tiny compared to these, but burned all the same.

2cents
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Check out the slide show of this fire

https://static.cnhi.zope.net/flashpromo/logansport/photo/AndersonsFire/album/index.html

story;

https://pharostribune.com/local/x488922904/Up-in-flames

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rainbowgardener
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Interesting, but sad and wasteful. All that water! I take it that it is some kind of corn processing plant? They need to be finding a use for those corn cobs instead of leaving thousands of tons of them sitting around to catch fire and cause air pollution and hazard.

Ground corn cobs make good mulch ... I have done it when we were feeding corn to squirrels more regularly. Can also be used as kitty litter, polishing media for precision instruments (https://www.dillonprecision.com/content/p/9/pid/25218/catid/8/Ground_Corn_Cob_Polishing_Media), bedding for birds and small animals,

ALC Ground Corncob blasting media is used for cleaning delicate surfaces such as wood, stone, block and glass. Will not scratch glass surface.

Absorb Dirt, Oil

They could be be grinding those up, bagging them, and selling them for profit, instead of costing their community millions of dollars.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

toxcrusadr
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I would imagine they have some kind of outlets for the cobs, because you can't store them forever. That said, it is pretty dumb to make a pile more than ten stories high of something you know can catch fire because it happened before. Duh. :roll: Amazing photos!
Tox

Binkalette
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Eeek! How big was your pile? Mine is 3ftx 3ft x3ft.. I'm hoping mine doesn't get quite that hot!



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