Santa Barbara City firefighters responded multiple times to a mulch fire at an orchard over the weekend. (Urban Hikers photo)

The Santa Barbara Fire Department is keeping its eye on a smoldering mulch fire that started in an avocado orchard off Bajada Grande in the city’s Westside neighborhood.

According to Battalion Chief Jim McCoy, firefighters have responded to the scene three times in the past few days, adding water and spreading around the mulch to reduce its heat.

The large pile of mulch, he said, started generating its own heat and releasing steam when the material began to break down.

Given Monday morning’s relatively cool weather, he said that the fire department is not especially concerned that the mulch will pose a more significant danger, though the department will be keeping its eye on it.

The orchard’s landscaper brought in a tractor to spread around the mulch and exposed the heated areas, while the fire department added water throughout the day, McCoy said Monday afternoon.  

The process would continue until the enormous pile cools off, he said. Until then, it would continue to smolder.

According to McCoy, when a mulch pile is thick and deep enough, the dense, organic material starts to break down and release heat, which can cause the mulch to spontaneously combust.

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