Spontaneous combustion at cemetery ignites fire department response

Pioneer photo by Lacey Peterson

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BELLE FOURCHE — A fire resulting from spontaneous combustion of a slash pile at the Pine Slope Cemetery in Belle Fourche Thursday led to a response from the Belle Fourche Volunteer Fire Department. At approximately 9 a.m. Thursday, fire crews responded to the cemetery located on the south end of Belle Fourche. Fire Chief Aaron Thramer told the Pioneer that a slash pile comprised of grass clippings, leaves, and pine needles self ignited due to heat caused by decomposition. Thramer said fire department crews responded, performed an initial knockdown on the small blaze, spread it out, and extinguished the fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), spontaneous combustion, sometimes called spontaneous ignition, is the “occurrence of fire without the application of an external heat source.” Due to chemical, biological, or physical processes, combustible materials self-heat to a temperature high enough for ignition to occur without additional heat or ignition applied. According to its website, NFPA estimates 14,070 fires occur annually from spontaneous combustion.

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