Spontaneous combustion blamed for Park City fire

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Park City, Kan. -- Spontaneous combustion blamed for Sunday's fire which forced the evacuation of a Park City neighborhood.

"It was a natural cause," says Sedgwick County Fire Division Chief Dan Wegner.

Fire erupted at the Evergreen Pallet and Recycle facility on 53rd Street North, west of Broadway. The fire quickly spread to neighboring businesses aided by Sunday's high winds.

Wegner says Evergreen makes compost material. "Some of the chemicals they use in the composting process are animal fats and vegetable oils that help break down the compost. And if it's not turned over regularly it can generate heat and spontaneously ignites."

Wegner says Sunday's high heat and low humidity provided the right conditions for the compost to ignite.

Joe Hobbs lives in the neighborhood northeast of the industrial park where the fire spread which was evacuated Sunday.

Hobbs says he doesn't worry about too many things but says that fire worried him. "It was scary."

Hobbs believes a slight change in wind direction would have meant the end of his house. But if it had been out of the southwest, I would have lost my house. Everybody in here would have lost their homes."

Hobbs says he's also concerned because he says Evergreen has had several fires in recent years. "They always have fires over there at Evergreen. "

Division Chief Wegner says, "In 2006 we had quite a few fires. But we have one or two fires there every year. We've got years where we don't have any fires there."

He says, "The risk of fire is going to be there as long as they're making compost and mulch products. But they are in compliance with the codes and regulations at this point."

"We are looking at maybe some change in processes with them so that this doesn't happen again.. to make sure that if we do have another fire on this property that it doesn't leave the compound and affect anybody else."

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