Heavy equipment and firefighters worked to put out a mulch fire at Tajiguas Landfill. | Credit: S.B.Co.Fire/Mike Eliason

[Update: May 13, 2022, 11:30 a.m.] Some of mounds of compost that caught fire Thursday evening are still smoldering, and staff and contractors at Tajiguas Landfill continue to turn the piles and spray them with water, said Lael Wageneck, spokesperson for Santa Barbara County Public Works. They’ll keep doing that for a few more days until the pockets of heat are completely extinguished. The winds are much calmer today, blowing in the 5mph range with gusts to 20mph, Wageneck said.

The fire broke out in mounds of compost set out on a large deck up by the anaerobic digester, he said, not down by the machines that grind green waste into mulch. The sifting machine that separates the compost from the trash that survives digestion was also damaged by the fire, Wageneck said, clarifying that recycled material was not involved.

Compost deck at Tajiguas Landfill post-fire | Photo Courtesy S.B.Co. Public Works/Lael Wageneck

[Original Story] A fire flamed to life in the mulch piles at Tajiguas Landfill around 7 p.m. on a windy Thursday evening, Santa Barbara County Fire reported at its Twitter feed. Automated weather stations at nearby Refugio Canyon clocked the winds as hitting 48 mph last night. To contain the fire, heavy equipment at the dump spread the piles of mulch and recyclables out while firefighters from the county and the Forest Service poured water on it. The new Firehawk helicopter was also called out to drop 1,000 pounds of water on the fire at a time.

Heavy smoke made visibility difficult on the freeway, and Highway Patrol vehicles were taking groups of cars through the area yesterday evening.

The firefighters stayed on scene all night to contain the roughly half-acre mulch fire, which had spread to about an acre and a half of nearby vegetation by 10 p.m.. The incident was not listed as active on Friday morning, and County Fire spokesperson Captain Daniel Bertucelli confirmed the fire is out.

Tajiguas has endured two fires since opening in July 2021, the other being the nearly 17,000-acre Alisal Fire in October. The most difficult embers to extinguish were in the wetted wood chips that help eliminate odors from the building where the trash is separated from the recyclables. The facility receives south Santa Barbara County’s trash and also its green waste, which is chopped and piled as mulch. Tajiguas also installed a state-of-the art anaerobic digester that produces methane used to power the plant and also organic matter that is mixed with the green waste to form compost.

Santa Barbara County Fire’s new Copter 964, a National Guard Blackhawk converted to hold water and rescue equipment | Photo Courtesy S.B.Co.Fire/Mike Eliason


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