Image via WikipediaIf you follow composting news (and who doesn't) then you probably heard about several compost fires recently.
There was one burning in Maple Valley, Seattle earlier in the week and another in Saginaw, Michigan yesterday.
Now before you get worried about your kitchen compost crock bursting into flames on your counter top, both of these fires took place at composting facilities. These are really large processing plants that compost for a whole town or city and their piles are probably larger than your house.
Can a compost fire start in a home compost bin? It's probably possible but it's rather unlikely. Some of the factors that cause compost to spontaneously combust are the following:
- Large Well Insulated Piles
- Limited Air Flow
- Dry Pockets in the Pile
What happens is the biological activity in a compost pile generates heat. And if the pile isn't aerated (which is common when the compost pile is bigger than a house) decomposition will be anaerobic. One by-product of anaerobic composting is methane. Now you've got heat and fuel and all you need is for this to happen near a dry pocket of unfinished compost in huge well insulated pile and poof, you've got a compost fire.
This isn't likely to happen in your average home composting set up but it's not a bad idea to give you compost a mix now and then.
Sources: 1, 2