Huge mulch pile in Harford burns Route 152 closed

More than 185 firefighters from Maryland and Pennsylvania threw more than a million gallons of water on a stubborn fire in a huge mulch pile in Harford County Saturday night and yesterday, authorities said.

No injuries were reported in the fire in the three-story-high pile covering 2 1/2 acres at Fireside Tom's Forest Products, a nursery and landscaping service on Mountain Road (Route 152) in a rural section of the Joppa area.


Route 152 was closed between Joppa Road and Interstate 95 Saturday night and most of the day yesterday. It was expected to reopen at 5 a.m. today.

The mulch pile had apparently been smoldering since August, when lightning struck a tree growing in the pile, said George Harrison, public information officer for Harford County. He said there was no suspicion of arson.


"They thought they had taken care of it, and they brought in a private contractor to work on it," Mr. Harrison said. "But last night [Saturday] it flared up, and we started the massive effort to put it out."

The fire, reported at 6:41 p.m. Saturday, was thought to be winding down at 8:30 a.m. yesterday, but it flared up again about 11:30 a.m. Fire officials said last night that they expected to be monitoring the blaze for another 24 hours.

"By early in the morning, they should have it taken care of," Mr. Harrison said.

About 50 pieces of fire equipment pumped water onto the blaze, and heavy earth-moving equipment from the Harford County Department of Public Works and a private construction company was used to spread out the mulch so that it could be wetted down.

Mr. Harrison said no estimate was available of the value of the destroyed mulch. He said it was unclear who would pay for the cost of putting out the fire.