Repeated fires at Chelsea Market Basket are just too mulch

The Chelsea Fire Department reports it's ordered the local Market Basket to get rid of that damned mulch that keeps catching on fire.

Fire detail ordered again at Market Basket for multiple outside fires today. We ordered them to remove the mulch. Some has been removed, they are working on the rest.

Firefighters had to repeatedly respond to the same store last week for repeated mulch fires.




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That would explain

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The large fire department presence there when I was there earlier tonight.

But in defense of Market Basket, it not really their fault. Its the patrons who are careless smokers.

Every year that store puts out mulch and they've never had this problem before. Its sad because Mystic Mall/Market Basket Plaza is one of the better looking spots in Chelsea and now won't look as nice because of some care less smoker.

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I have actually seen mulch

I have actually seen mulch fires at Market Basket before this year but never quite like this.

It is not always the smokers that are to blame. If mulch dries out in the sun and it is deep enough it can actually auto ignite. One of the fires that I was witness to this year was going on in an area that I was quite certain nobody else had been in since it was cut off from the rest of the parking lot at the time.

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If mulch dries out in the sun and it is deep enough it can actually auto ignite.

I didn't believe this until I did some research:

Turns out decomposition can actually generate so much well-insulated heat that the interior temperatures can exceed 500F. Apparently this is common in large compost piles: add some wind, remove some water, and you have a fire. Scary.

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Same here.. I COULD See this happen with extra ordinary dry & windy conditions. And yes its been pretty dry (except for last Tuesday) and windy yesterfday (didn't the other fire(s) start on windy days also), so it COULD happen.

But I'm more inclined to blame a smoker because I do shop at the Chelsea Market Basket at least twice a week so I know what kind of patrons shop there, and yes many of them smoke and are careless about disposing of smoking materials.

And a lit cigarette butt + pretty dry mulch + wind = easy start-able, spreadable fire.

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Spontaneous combustion

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Any large pile of mulch will burn, it's just a matter of time. I used to go to a dog park where they dumped a huge pile of mulch and then left it there for a month. The pile was probably 7' tall and something like 15' in diameter. It was burning from the inside out for at least two weeks before they started spreading it. Even after rain storms it would be steaming/smoking.

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This isn't large piles

This is mulch that is spread out in the parking medians - the kind of place where an incoming driver would fling a cigarette on their way into the non-smoking store.

Thin layers of mulch don't have the sheer mass to spontaneously combust, and this mulch has been there for over a week (it wasn't smoldering when it was put there).

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It has also been abnormally dry with the wind fronts.

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If it were our prevailing seasonal pattern, there would be more rain and the mulch would stay soggy.

But I have been noticing 50% or lower humidity readings coming in with these northwest winds.

I mentioned Santa Ana winds to a friend from the Bay area and he thought there is a resemblance.

It is like a recurrence of the conditions that led to 298 Beacon.

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The Fire Dept just might be a

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The Fire Dept just might be a tad sensitive of that location, plus the turbo- charged windage might count for some caution as well.

Great Chelsea Fire, 1973

Just north of Boston is Chelsea Massachusetts. The second Great Chelsea Fire occurred in 1973. Eighteen blocks of the city were completely destroyed, with National Guard troops cordoning off the border streets to turn away spectators, and support emergency response teams. The first Great Chelsea Fire occurred in 1908.
In 1971, an area of Chelsea was slated for urban renewal. This part of the city was known as the "Rag Shop District," due to many junk and salvage dealers being located there. Negative economic conditions in the early 1970s resulted in numerous businesses closing up shop forever, with many property owners just abandoning their buildings. Most of the structures in "Millionaire's Row" were two-story wooden buildings or constructed of brick and wood.

Chelsea Historical Society Photo
At 3:56 p.m. on Sunday October 14, 1973, a fire alarm was sounded at Third and Arlington Streets. The wind was gusting up to 35 mph that day, and the fire quickly spread from Summer Street to Maple and Third Streets. The fire was out of control due to high winds, and a lack of water from leaky ancient city water mains. Aid was called in from sixty-seven fire companies from eastern Massachusetts, and one from Hampton New Hampshire.
After several hours, a stand was made at Everett Avenue. The fire was controlled in a triangular area bounded by Second Street to the south, the Boston & Maine Railroad tracks to the west, and Everett Avenue to the east. Eighteen square blocks were completely destroyed, with 1000 people evacuated from the disaster area.
Chelsea Fire Department Chief Herbert Fothergill had to overcome many large obstacles to battle the blaze, including high winds, low water supply, refueling of equipment, and distribution of mutual aid from other fire departments (from as far away as New Hampshire), as they arrived in the city. Fire Chief Fothergill eventually employed a helicopter to assess the nature of the fire, and develop a strategy to put it under control.

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