Massive mulch pile still burning near St. Augustine

Fire started Friday

By Kent Justice - Anchor/reporter , Staff

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - Mulch and storm and yard debris that caught fire Friday night on Dobbs Road just off State Road 312 continued to burn Monday, authorities said.

The fire began in a pile of debris and has been burning ever since, said Capt. Jeremy Robshaw, spokesman for St. Johns County Fire Rescue. But he said there's no threat to surrounding structures.

“We saw flames last Friday and more today,” Robshaw said. “Initially responded to (a call about), essentially, a mulch fire. As you can see from the pile, it’s a lot larger than a typical pile of mulch.”

Robshaw said Monday the fire is contained and firefighters are working on a plan with the landowner and the Department of Environmental Protection to put it out for good.

WATCH: Drone footage of mulch fire

The biggest challenge for firefighters so far has been finding a way to reach the flames, Robshaw said. "We don't have the equipment or materials to access it," he added.

Robshaw said fire crews have extinguished the fire several times, but it comes back to life.

“The challenge being, with that tall of a pile, you might extinguish what you can see, but the real seat of the fire is burning well underground, essentially,” Robshaw said. “So the fire has essentially been making its way back to the surface. Different wind conditions (and) environmental conditions have caused it to flare up over the last couple days.”

Three engines and a plane poured water on the fire after St. Johns County Fire-Rescue crews reported flames towering 50 feet in the air Friday night. Things were more subdued Monday as the fire smoldered.

Robshaw said crews believe they have contained the fire and said neighboring business owners expressing frustration and concern should rest easy. Some business owners expressed their concern over potential smoke hazards, but Robshaw said he thinks that mainly applies to a smaller population.

“So the standard precaution would apply there. If you have pre-existing conditions that would cause the smoke to cause you issues, we would advise you to stay out of there, stay away from it if possible," Robshaw said.

Robshaw wouldn’t predict a time for putting out the fire. He said it’s going to be a “lengthy process.” To make progress, he said firefighters have to, literally, dig deep.

“The main portion of the fire is burning, from what I could estimate, would probably be 30-40 feet under the flames you’re seeing at the top,” Robshaw said. “So you have to get down to that. If you don’t, you might extinguish what you see, but it’s eventually going to make its way back to the surface again.”

News4Jax received an email from someone saying the fire isn’t a one-time problem at the location.

News4Jax spoke to several people on Dobbs Road Monday. Some of whom said they believe some equipment problems contributed to creating the huge mound of fuel for the fire, but fire crews have not confirmed that information.


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