A massive wood chip pile was still smoldering today in Dexter Township.

Wood chips being stored in a gravel pit caught on fire Monday evening. Dexter Area Fire Chief Robert Smith says spontaneous combustion can occur in piles of wood chips, which could have been hot for a while but it broke out into a fire yesterday. He says “massive” is the word to describe the pile of wood chips, about 30 feet high and 150 feet in diameter. The owners of the wood chips were out today trying to separate the pile with heavy equipment. Smith says as they move the pile around, it loses energy and the fire tends to go out but it will take them awhile to get through it because the pile is so large.

Smith says generally these types of fires are deep seeded down into the wood and the only way to really extinguish them with water is to start taking the pile apart and wet it down while doing so. Since the fire is contained, Smith says he opted to let the owners of the wood chips tear it apart.

He says unfortunately because of the size of the fire, they would be out for a week doing that and they just don’t have the resources. He says the fire is contained in an old gravel pit and it’s not going to spread so he opted to not use water on it and allow the owners of the wood chips to tear the pile apart. Smith says eventually it will go out and the resources that would have been spent trying to put out the fire would have been tremendous for something that isn’t going to spread anywhere and is further not creating a safety hazard for any residents.

Smith says he will continue to monitor the site and the department might assist toward the end to get it completely extinguished but he anticipates it will be a couple of days. Smith doesn’t believe the fire was intentionally set or there was any malicious intent, but rather it was just the natural decomposition of the product itself.

Meanwhile, the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office is in the midst of a law enforcement multi-agency training exercise from noon to 10pm in the area of Toma and North Territorial Roads, which is less than one mile away from the gravel pit and wood chip fire. Numerous law enforcement vehicles including a helicopter were participating in the exercise and Smith has been fielding calls but advises there is no cause for alarm as the two events are separate. (JM)