City Staff Issues Report, Makes Recommendations on Mulch Fire

Communications Director

Eric Vreeland
evreeland@knoxvilletn.gov
(865) 215-3480

400 Main St., Room 654A
Knoxville, TN 37902

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City Staff Issues Report, Makes Recommendations on Mulch Fire

Posted: 06/20/2012
Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero today released a review and analysis of the April mulch fire at Shamrock Organic Products.

Mayor Rogero called for the comprehensive review one day after the fire began on April 15th at Shamrock's Ailor Avenue property. The City of Knoxville has had a contract since 1994 with Shamrock, which provides processing and storage of yard waste.

"We want to ensure that a fire of this nature doesn't happen again," said Mayor Rogero. "This review is a thorough analysis of past events and a roadmap for how we will move forward."

Senior staff prepared the report, which examines the causes associated with the fire, the City's response, and recommendations for action.

Among the significant findings are:

While the Fire Department cannot definitively identify the cause of the fire, it is most likely that it originated in a pile of mulch or other decaying material mixed with larger brush, which is known as a "hybrid" pile. The existence of hybrid piles at the collection site was a significant contributing factor to the rapid growth and spread of the fire.

When large storms created an unprecedented volume of material to the site, the City's focused efforts in clearing streets and public spaces failed to adequately take into account the hazards associated with an overburdened collection site.

The current contract between the City and Shamrock does not authorize the City to immediately divert flow away from the site when the site is overburdened with unanticipated volume.

The centrally located site on Ailor Avenue is well suited to the successful operation of the yard waste recycling program so long as safeguards are employed to ensure its safe future operation.

Security at the site is a concern that must be addressed by the contractor.

The emergency response to the fire was well coordinated and managed, revealing the importance of a prepared and collaborative local emergency response system.

Among the actions that have already taken place or are planned as a result of this report are:

The City has required Shamrock to obtain and implement a Fire Hazard Analysis and Protection plan with weekly Knoxville Fire Department inspections pending full compliance with the plan, monthly inspections thereafter for six (6) months, and quarterly inspections thereafter.

The Knoxville Fire Department will implement changes to better disseminate and act upon information obtained during incident responses.

The City's contract with Shamrock will be amended to allow the City to divert waste to alternate sites when waste flow exceeds maximum safe capacity. The contract will also be amended to provide a shorter period of time for Shamrock to cure any events of default.

The City will request that the Metropolitan Planning Commission prepare a small area plan for the Ailor Avenue site to identify concerns related to uses in the immediate area and to make suggestions for future land use decisions.