Fire at Tajiguas landfill Thursday night

[Update: May 13, 2022, 11:30 a.m.] Some of the compost piles that caught fire Thursday night are still burning, and employees and contractors at the Tajiguas landfill continue to turn over the piles and spray them with water, Lyle Wagenick, a Santa Barbara County Public Works spokesperson, said. They will continue to do this for a few more days until the pockets of heat are completely gone. The winds are much calmer today, Wajnick said, blowing in the 5 mph range with gusts of up to 20 mph.

He said the fire was started in heaps of compost on a large rooftop by the anaerobic digester, not by machines that grind green waste into mulch. The sieving machine that separates compost from the garbage that survives digestion was also damaged by the fire, Wajenik said, explaining that recycled materials were not involved.

Composting surface at the Tajiguas landfill after the fire | Image courtesy SBCo. Public Works / Lyle Wagenick

[Original Story] Santa Barbara County Fire reports in its Twitter feed that a fire broke out in mounds of mulch at the Tagueguas landfill at about 7 p.m. on a stormy Thursday evening. Automated weather stations in nearby Refugio Canyon recorded winds of 48 mph last night. To contain the fire, heavy equipment at the landfill spread piles of mulch and recyclable materials while county firefighters and the Forest Service poured water on it. The new Firehawk helicopter was also called in to throw 1,000 pounds of water on a fire at a time.

Thick smoke made it difficult to see on the highway, and road patrol vehicles were ferrying groups of cars through the area yesterday evening.

Firefighters remained at the scene all night to contain the nearly half-acre mulch fire, which had spread to about one and a half acres of nearby vegetation by 10 p.m. The incident was not listed as active on Friday morning, and County Fire spokesman Captain Daniel Bertocelli confirmed that the fire had been extinguished.

Tajiguas has suffered two fires since it opened in July 2021, the other being the nearly 17,000-acre Alisal Fire in October. The hardest embers to put out were wet wood chips that help eliminate odors from the building as the trash is separated from the recyclables. The facility receives southern Santa Barbara County trash as well as its green waste, which is shredded and stacked as mulch. Tajiguas has also installed a state-of-the-art anaerobic digester that produces methane used to run the plant and also organic matter that is mixed with green waste to make compost.

Converted New Santa Barbara County Fire Copter 964 Blackhawk National Guard Water Retention and Rescue Equipment | Photo courtesy SBCo.Fire/Mike Eliason
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