Tenn. Firefighters Use Foam in Effort to Douse Mulch Fire

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- By noon Wednesday, Knoxville firefighters had a new type of foam to spray on a stubborn mulch fire near the downtown area. The rainfall overnight, though welcome, wasn't as steady as hoped.

"It's really going to take a heavy, saturating rain," said Knoxville Fire Department spokesman Capt. D.J. Corcoran. "Every little bit is good. We'll take every bit we can get."

The foam, he said, would help penetrate to the root of the fire on Ailor Avenue.

"It will penetrate all the way to the bottom," he said. "We're getting ready to try that."

He said the idea for using the foam came from the TVA's Bull Run Fossil Plant in Anderson County.

"They have penetrating nozzles that they can actually poke through their coals and spray into with this foam," he said.

Smoke is holding closer to the ground, blowing southwest from the Shamrock Organic Products site, due to the overcast skies, he said.

About 30 firefighters through the night continued to spray five streams of water on the numerous burning piles of mulch that have been pouring smoke across the area and degrading air quality.

"Every time the wind blows, it looks like a thousand smokers inhaling at the same time because it gets so red," Corcoran said.

"It looks like the mounds are breathing. It's pretty awesome looking."

Corcoran said firefighters have no idea when they might extinguish the blaze that erupted 11:30 a.m. Sunday at the Shamrock Organic Products site at 1925 Ailor Ave. He said they planned for another 24 hours of work.

The rain "can't do anything but help," Corcoran said, as it distributes water across the nine-acre site "like a shower head."

"Usually, I hate fighting fires in the rain, but if it keeps raining, we're not going to complain about it," he said.

Corcoran said firefighters have been particularly lucky that no embers from the mulch piles have been carried by the wind to ignite secondary fires. Streams of water sprayed on the piles help douse those embers before they can be carried to another fuel source.

Corcoran said two crash trucks borrowed from the Knoxville airport have been especially helpful. The trucks can spray water while moving around, unlike the Fire Departments trucks which have to be anchored and still to spray.

"The trucks from the airport authority have been very busy," Corcoran said.

Copyright 2012 - The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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