Logging debris from a county road project caught fire just after midnight Tuesday and burned until around 8 a.m. that morning, according to Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue Chief Ed Hartin.
A section of a pile of logging slash on Kempton Place from clearing done to make way for Oakes Road started to smolder late Monday night.
The pile was approximately 35 feet tall, 60 feet wide and 70 feet long, Hartin said.
“It’s prone to heating up by itself,” said Hartin of the logging material.
Such a large pile of ground up timber heats up as the wood products decompose. If the smolder hits the surface of the pile and meets oxygen, it combusts. From the ground, the flames reached around 40 feet tall, Hartin said.
Combustion can be avoided if the piles are spread out, Hartin said, but the large pile that caught fire was the last one scheduled to be moved.
Central Whidbey firefighters initially responded and dug a fire line around the pile, Hartin said.
Crews from Island County Public Works arrived with an excavator to pull the pile apart and allow water to get to the flames inside.
Later, an engine from the Department of Natural Resources arrived around 3 a.m. and relieved the Central Whidbey firefighters.
There weren’t any structures in danger, but surrounding vegetation in the wooded area was a concern, Hartin said. Once the fire line was dug around it, the main issue was how long it took to fully put out the embers.