Business owners, city officials discuss aftermath of large mulch fire

Posted at 9:40 PM, Jul 11, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-11 23:40:08-04

SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah -- Firefighters say spontaneous combustion may have been the culprit behind the massive mulch fire burning at a South Salt Lake business Thursday night.

Now businesses surrounding the Diamond Tree Experts are sounding off. They believe the city could have done more to prevent the blaze.

Flames fueled by winds up to 60 miles per hour burned a massive pile of mulch at Diamond Tree Experts, a fire that raged out of control. Sixty-five firefighters battled the blaze in the 70 foot tall pile of compost.

"Everybody thinks firefighters are heroes, there were a lot of heroes last night, they put their lives on the line and were able to stop that fire where it started," said South Salt Lake Fire Chief Ron Morris.

Owners of nearby businesses who looked on worried their buildings would go up in smoke too are upset. This marks the second fire in a week at the same spot.

"I think a few groups dropped the ball," said Kyle Gross of American West Analytical Laboratories.

Kyle Gross has been in business for 20 years, and he said he knew this day would come. The fire next door edged dangerously close to his lab, damaging his building.

Gross said: "Yesterday morning I was on the phone with the fire marshal and said this exact scenario, I said ‘If we ever have strong wind out of the south our building is in jeopardy of being burned.’ He agreed with me and said they’re going to talk about some corrective action.”

"We are using a cooperative relationship with the owner," said South Salt Lake Fire Marshall Boyd Johnson.

Johnson said Diamond Tree Experts isn't going anywhere, but the growing pile of compost may have been too big, which is a violation of the city code.

"We will as a city solicit assistance in the amount that will be allowed to remain there, so it will be regulated," Johnson said.

It's not clear if Diamond Tree Experts will be cited for damages, but the Fire Marshall said they will be keeping a closer eye on the company, adding that half of their mulch is now gone.

One firefighter was taken to the hospital last night for smoke inhalation, but was later released.