MOTTVILLE, Mich. — A fire that ignited Monday afternoon at a mulch manufacturing facility north of Bristol is still burning and, according to fire officials at the scene, will be for some time.
White Pigeon Assistant Fire Chief Tyler Royce said that the blaze at Michiana Decorative Mulch in the 69000 block of M-103, just north of Bristol across the state line into Michigan, is currently contained to 15 acres at the 38-acre site and that crews have had to battle high winds at times.
"Altogether, we have had about 20 different departments and close to 100 personnel out here at the site," he said. "The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has been out here, along with two or three other local excavating companies, with their bulldozers and other heavy equipment. We have established a pretty good path all the way around the pile of burning material and we are not too concerned with the fire extending at this point. We are just trying to keep it contained."
Fire crews began to arrive at the site on Monday afternoon. A column of smoke rising from the facility, which was purchased in December by Elkhart-based Green Stream Recycling, could be seen nearly 20 miles away in Granger.
Royce said they have a couple of theories on what started the blaze, but that he could not comment on those theories at this time.
"We are just waiting for the fire to burn itself out at this point," he said. "I would say the fire is probably going to burn for another week or so."
Fire department tanker trucks were moving in and out of the facility on Tuesday morning as fire crews continued to pour water on the blaze. Royce said that tankers were currently going to four different locations — White Pigeon, Bristol, site neighbor Banks Hardwoods and the St. Joseph River in Mottville — to fill up with water, since the mulch facility had no water supply of its own that fire departments could use.
"We brought in planes last night, but we probably are not going to be doing that today," said Royce.
Doug Kuhlman, a zoning official with Mottville Township, said local government officials had been worried about the chances of a fire happening at the facility since Green Stream purchased the site in December. Kuhlman said Green Stream had been using the site for different purposes than the previous owners.
"The township had been working with them to file a change of use or special exception request with the zoning board," he said. "They had begun recycling cardboard and Styrofoam at the site, as well as the wood products. The amount of material they were taking in was astronomical and I think it was more than they could process, creating large stockpiles, which was extremely concerning."
Kuhlman said a fire at the location was the township's biggest concern and that officials had been working to make sure the site had proper fire lanes to prevent the spread of a fire if one should happen and a water system of its own to help extinguish a fire if one occurred.
"Just a week ago the company had people at the site to check for a good well location to establish the water system," he said.
Kuhlman said he works with the village of White Pigeon as well, and that they have had three fires so far this year that have used around a million gallons of water.
"I expect this fire to well exceed that mark," he said.
Green Stream officials were unavailable for comment.
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