ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — Officials are continuing to monitor a debris fire that sent smoke pouring through a neighborhood just outside the Robertsdale city limits last week.
“We’re keeping an eye on it,” said Robertsdale Police Chief Brad Kendrick, the city’s public safety coordinator. “I feel for those residents, but right now I don’t think there’s much more we can do except hope the wind dies down and the smoke goes straight up instead of blowing out. It’s just going to have to burn itself out.”
Rickey Fields, forestry management specialist for Baldwin County with the Alabama Forestry Commission, said it is believed that mulch from Hurricane Sally debris ignited because of the heat.
The site, a dirt pit owned by Patterson Construction, located off of Hubbard Road, was approved to receive process debris from the city of Robertsdale and other locations.
“There was just more storm debris than EMA or anyone else could have predicted,” Field said. “As far as the fire, it has always been contained, but weather conditions over the last week caused smoke to drift.”
A similar site located in Fairhope caught fire in January, Fields said, but conditions allowed crews to put the fire out without incident.
“I believe we had three inches of rain right after the fire started, so that helped,” he said. “Crews are continuing to monitor the situation in case anything changes.”
On Thursday, March 25, crews from the Baldwin County Tanker Truck Force dumped water on the site in an attempt to contain the smoke, Kendrick said.
“Basically it’s just several departments in the area that have tanker trucks that respond in areas where they don’t have water systems they can connect to,” Kendrick said.
Posts on social media reported there were at least 15 crews at the site.
“I know it was at least six,” Kendrick said. “It’s burning from the bottom up, so there’s really not much more we can do. I mean, I think they dumped more than 250,000 gallons of water on the site and it didn’t even make a dent.”
Fields said situations like this are rare, normally happening in rural farm areas where hay or cotton is piled up and can be ignited from the heat.
“Right now this is more of a health hazard than it is a fire hazard,” he said.
Kendrick said fire crews continue to monitor the site daily and will do everything they can to keep the smoke contained.