Burning biomass piles lead to calls for Dawn-Euphemia fire

A pile of biosolids in Dawn-Euphemia in 2016 when the municipality first had complaints about the government approved fertilizer.

The Dawn-Euphemia Fire Department has finally got a handle on biomass fertilizer piles, which have been catching on fire.

In the last few months, the department has answered about half a dozen calls from citizens saying the piles in farmers’ fields – particularly one on Dawn Mills Road south of Rutherford – were either smoking or in flames.

Chief Dave Williams says the biomass fertilizer has been stored in farmers’ fields in the early spring but it can spontaneously combust if it is left in piles. There is little, he says they can do to stop the smoke and flames. “Adding water or foam only makes it worse,” says Williams.

The fires have not spread around the piles, he adds, because the ground and grass are still wet.

The Dawn-Euphemia fire department worked with the company behind the biomass fertilizer, Buurma Farms, to control the problem. Williams says the best way to solve the problem is by spreading the piles out with a backhoe. One of the fertilizer piles has also been covered with a tarp.

Dawn-Euphemia is not the first fire department to have to deal with the problem. North Enniskillen/Oil Springs has also had four calls for the same reason and it was a problem for firefighters near Bothwell several years ago.

Williams says in the past, biomass fertilizer was stored in a Sarnia area storage shed, which caught fire and was destroyed.