Umatilla Fire District #1 Addresses Silage Fire in Southwest Hermiston

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Umatilla County Fire District #1 released a statement on its Facebook page on Wednesday responding to a silage pile fire on the morning of Dec. 8:

On arrival, crews found a large pile of corn silage that had self heated and began to openly burn. Crews extinguished the open flames and have responded back additional times for open flame combustion.

This fire is a large smoldering pile of organic material that requires the use of heavy equipment and water to complete extinguishment. To simply flow water on this type of fire as has been suggested by some citizens, will do nothing to mitigate the smoke in a timely fashion. This fire would be comparable to a trash can fire inside a residence and we show up and simply flow water on the roof of the structure. It is not going to do anything to extinguish the fire, the water would simply flow off the roof onto the ground.

This is not a hostile fire at this time. We are well aware of the impact that the smoke is having on the community and the landowner is taking all the required actions to complete extinguishment of this fire. The actions include the use of heavy equipment and water trucks. The heavy equipment needed is not equipment the Fire District has readily available nor do we have operators to handle this type of equipment.

These types of fires occur when organic materials begin to break down. During the ensiling process, heat is released which given the right conditions can lead to smoldering and open combustion. This pile has all of the components needed for this type of fire; moist organic material, decomposition, compression and ventilation.

Given the high winds in recent days, this has provided the needed ventilation component to bring this combustion to the surface of the pile. This fire does not fall under the regulations of the Fire District open burning ordinance. This is an unintentional fire started from the natural breakdown of organic material previously mentioned. The fire is currently contained in an open pit and is not creating a hazard to anything surrounding that area. Therefore, the incident has been turned back to the property owner to complete the extinguishment of the fire.

We appreciate the phone calls and our community members bringing this to our attention. However, this issue is currently beyond any regulatory authority that the Fire District has for further mitigation. We have been in contact with the city of Hermiston, Umatilla County Smoke Management and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality regarding this incident.