Update: Fire that had burned for weeks in Chippewa Co. put out - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Update: Fire that had burned for weeks in Chippewa Co. extinguished


Update: Chippewa County (WQOW) - 

A fire that has been burning for weeks in Chippewa County was finally put out today. A compost pile unexpectedly began smoldering several weeks ago behind the Lafayette Town Hall. Sunday the Chippewa Fire District was finally able to put the fire out.

Crews from the Chippewa Fire District were unusually busy Sunday morning, trying to extinguish a smoldering brush pile in Lafayette.

"It's about 200 feet long and about 15 feet high," said Mark Sedlacek, a Deputy Chief for the Chippewa Fire District.

Fire crews believe spontaneous combustion caused the town's compost pile to begin burning.

"It's been going probably about three weeks," Sedlacek explained.

Sunday presented the best chance to finally stop the smoke.

"It's the best time for us to get all the more firefighters, because Saturdays everyone's got a lot of stuff planned. From everyone I talked to, Sunday was the best day to get this taken care of. And then plus the excavator, Tim McLoughlin from Larson Construction, he could come here and run the excavator and help us out," said Sedlacek.

Crews pumped water from a nearby creek nearly 3,000 feet to help fight the fire.

"We'll have our Telesquirt, Engine 5 which is a 45 foot aerial ladder. It's got a 1,250 gallon a minute pump on that, so we can really throw the water to it," Sedlacek said.

Unfortunately, the district says there is a chance the same thing could happen down the road.

"We just have to hope it doesn't happen again. Hopefully we can just try to monitor what comes in there, the intake that we have during the recycling hours. Maybe not have the gate open so much," said Sedlacek.

The fire was eventually put out completely around three this afternoon. The fire department says the cost of the project is unknown, but the town of Lafayette will be covering the cost of gas to operate the machines.



Chippewa County (WQOW)- Smoke fills the air and has been for some time in Chippewa County.  The burning question Wednesday night is when will the fire be put out? 

Here in Wisconsin, we are used to seeing white during the winter.  But this isn't snow falling.  It's thick white smoke rising.  Behind the town hall in Lafayette a fire has been burning in a gravel pit for the past two weeks.  The fire department believes spontaneous combustion started it.

"There are wood chips in there; grass, leaves, an entire compost pile and this will be the fourth year for it," explains Deputy Chief Mark Sedlacek.  "There's a lot of stuff in there."

You could barely see anything Tuesday night.  The heavy smoke reduced visibility to a few feet in some spots.

"The smoke outside, it just fills the pumps, it's hard for me to even see anything out there," points out Express Mart Employee Paul Larson.  "A couple of my customers, my regulars are asthmatics, and they've come in here just coughing up a lung."

"Nobody knows how long it was smoldering," says Ray Zank, a resident in Lafayette.  "They made one attempt at it about a week ago to get it out with some foam and some fire trucks and dug it out and couldn't get it."

The town was able to cut down on a lot of the smoke Wednesday.

"We started at 7 a.m. with a fire truck and a couple of loaders and dug the pile apart and watered it down with a fire truck and haul it away," Zank explains.  "Now we are just capping it with snow to keep the smoke down."

Lafayette says this is all the work the town can do now.  The rest of it will have to wait until Sunday.

"We are going to get a couple crick pumps," says Sedlacek.  "We are going to drill a hole in the ice and lay about 3,000 feet of LDH and then we will get an excavator from Larson Construction and we are going to tear the pile apart and hopefully put the fire out."

Express Mart in Lafayette says things are much better Wednesday night, noting you can barely smell the smoke.  The town says there weren't any tracks leading up to the gravel pit so it doesn't believe someone started the fire intentionally.

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