It was a memorable Labor Day weekend for SDS Lumber Co. in Bingen. On Sunday afternoon at about 4:45, a fire broke out in a huge pile of woody debris that was surrounded by stacks of logs.
Fire crews from the Bingen Fire Department, along with SDS employees with a water truck, responded to the scene and soaked the large pile. Huge clouds of smoke blew over them while they worked.
Despite a fairly strong wind blowing eastward, firefighters were able to contain the fire without it spreading to nearby log decks, and no other agencies needed to be called in.
A Washington Department of Natural Resources fire official came to the scene to make sure no additional firefighting equipment was required. He said "spontaneous combustion" caused the blaze.
SDS President Jason Spadaro said it was not uncommon for fires to start in piles of wood chips and bark.
"It was hog fuel, which is woody material for the boiler plant," explained SDS President Jason Spadaro. "It's used to create steam for the mill."
Spadaro said the material generates its own heat as it decomposes, and as a result the chips occasionally combust -- especially during hot and dry weather conditions like the area has seen in recent weeks.
There was no immediate dollar estimate of the loss, but Spadaro described it as "pretty minimal."
"It didn't spread, and we have sprinklers on the logs down there to protect from fire danger and to keep the logs from deteriorating," he said.
Alerted to the situation, dispatchers for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway briefly halted a freight train just east of Bingen to make sure no fire trucks would be blocked during the emergency.
Spadaro, who was out of town when the fire started, said the incident was handled professionally.
"Everyone did their job, and everything worked out well," he said.
There were no injuries, and operations at the mill were not jeopardized.
A photo from the fire scene appears on Page 11.