Environmental concerns made mop-up of smoldering piles more complicated
Efforts continued last weekend to extinguish the last of a wood-waste fire in Covington that was still burning at least four days after it started.
Fire officials said they were working with Rainier Wood Recyclers to douse the one remaining pile of burning wood debris.
The fire at the wood-recycling facility near State Route 18 and Covington-Sawyer Road was reported at 10:30 p.m Aug. 5.
Authorities reported that flames soared as high as 100 feet and could be seen from miles away before firefighters from Maple Valley, Kent and King County Fire District 44 controlled the blaze.
While the largest pile of wood was made up of large pieces, a smaller pile that consisted of ground-up wood and was more dense, meaning that only the outer surface could burn while the inside of the pile smoldered due to a lack of oxygen, according to the Kent Fire Department.
Once the pile burned down sufficiently, firefighters planned to pull it apart and extinguish the remaining fire, with a goal of finishing the job by the end of the weekend, officials said.
Kyle Ohashi, a spokesman for the Kent Fire Department, said officials realized the increased air pollution caused by smoke from the smoldering wood but didn’t want to increase the danger to the community and environment by acting too quickly. As of last Friday, the amount of water needed to extinguish the fire would cause massive amounts of runoff into nearby Jenkins Creek and other waterways, he said.
Ohashi said officials decided against using large fans to speed up the burning process because of the potential for sending sparks into trees and dry grass.
Employees of Rainier Wood Recyclers were removing as much of the unburned material from the pile as possible to shorten the wait for firefighters to extinguish the fire, officials reported.
In its earliest stages, the fire measured 175 feet by 50 feet, and firefighters were pouring 2,000 gallons of water per minute onto the flames before concentrating on unburned material in an attempt to keep the fire from spreading.
People living or working nearby who were afraid of health risks related to the smoke from the blaze were advised by authorities to remain indoors if they weren’t able to leave the area during the height of the fire.