Another mulch fire erupts


Firefighters from Kearny and North Arlington battled a stubborn fire over the weekend at a meadowlands mulch company where fires have been a recurring problem in recent years.

Kearny Fire Chief Steven Dyl said that the first fire units were dispatched to the twoacre property off the Belleville Turnpike, straddling the border of Kearny and North Arlington, at 11:51 a.m. Saturday and were soon joined by North Arlington volunteer firefighters.

With no hydrant nearby, firefighters had to stretch 4,000 feet of hose to connect up to the nearest pump available “at the bottom of the mountain,” Dyl said.

That hydrant was installed and paid for by the former N.J. Meadowlands Commission at Kearny’s request, according to Mayor Alberto Santos.

Since the fire was burning under the mounds of tree limbs, stumps and other materials the company grinds up as mulch, Dyl said that firefighters had to rely on the mulch company to bring in front-end loaders and backhoes “to take apart the piles of mulch” to allow firefighters to hose down the blaze.

Kearny Fire Department had about 20 firefighters aboard four engines and a ladder truck at the scene, assisted by North Arlington’s 10 volunteers riding two pumpers and a rescue truck, Dyl said.

No one was hurt, he added.

But with temperatures in the high 80s and with fire personnel faced with having to drag lots of hoses up steep elevations, conditions took a toll on the firefighters, Dyl said.

The fire was declared under control by 7:20 p.m. but “by the time we finished wrapping hoses, we didn’t leave the scene until 10:20 p.m.,” the chief said.

The mulch property is owned by the N.J. Sports & Exposition Authority (formerly the N.J. Meadowlands Commission) and is leased to a private operator, Dyl said. The business has been run by Nature’s Choice for some time but the chief said that his records show that the heavy equipment that was deployed at the fire scene was supplied by a company called Jersey Mulch which, he speculated, may be the new operator of the business.

Cause of the Saturday fire is under investigation, Dyl said.

– Ron Leir

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