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Mulch fire still burning in McCook, likely out this weekend

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014 4:56 p.m. CDT

McCOOK – A mulch fire that ignited almost two weeks ago is still buring at a outdoor yard that holds mulch in the village of McCook.

Authorities believe the fire started spontaneously in the early morning hours of Dec. 28. Mulch is known to catch fire from combustible heat as the material dries. The heat produced inside the piles during the drying process can heat up enough to suddenly produce fire.

According to McCook Mayor Jeff Tobolski, the mulch pile that caught fire is located in a section far from the entrance of Perfect Mulch, a 2.5-acre yard that houses mulch. Fire crews were initially unable to get to the section on fire, because other piles of mulch prevented their path.

Firefighters eventually went around the mulch yard to gain access from the back and put water on the fire for 27 hours before calling in expert help. The fire is considered to be in a controlled burn and does not present a danger to residents or businesses in the area, according to Tobolski.

Tobolski, who also serves as Cook County commissioner for the 16th District, called in support from the Department of Homeland Security and from the Cook County Forest Preserve District.

"It's like fighting a forest fire," Tobolski said. "It just keeps burning and it takes a long time to [completely] put it out."

The village has continued to monitor the situation, but is no longer taking an active role in extinguishing the fire, Tobolski said. Currently, extinguishing the fire is the responsibility of Lemont-based Perfect Mulch's insurer, Rockwood Insurance Company, and a private contractor, TGF Forestry and Fire, a company with experience in putting out fires of this type.

Due to the nature of the fire, Tobolski said there's not much the village can do but wait. He said the village is aware of complaints from residents about the smell, but said that he believes the fire will be out by the end of the weekend.

The village also consulted with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, which conducted an investigation of the fire, Tobolski said.

Tobolski said the village's fire chief has been at the fire location daily to monitor the situation.

According to the village, any potential smoke inhalation claims can be directed to Rockwood Insurance Company at 312-602-5240.

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