Palo Alto fire sparks health warning

July 24, 2008 1:26:48 PM PDT
You may notice huge smoke if you're driving along 101 near Palo Alto. A fire that started Wednesday night at a landfill is still burning - prompting health officials to issue a warning.

The huge plumes of smoke coming from the Palo Alto dump can be seen from miles away. Firefighters say it's not toxic, but it can be dangerous to people with respiratory problems. It's expected to take firefighters two to three days to put the fire out.

The call for the fire in the compost pile at the Palo Alto dump came in Wednesday evening at about 5:15. The fire is burning a combination of vegetation, like yard clippings, and sawdust. Firefighters say putting out the fire is very tedious. They have to dig into the piles and water down the compost in layers. Firefighters are still looking for a cause, but say it's not unusual for a compost pile to catch fire.

"My suspicion is, but I haven't been really able to investigate it further, but usually in most cases they self combust from the inside due to the decomposing material," said Donald Dudak, Batt. Chief, Palo Alto fire department.

Community warnings about the smoke have been issued through phone calls and emails. The Palo Alto fire department warns people with respiratory problems to stay inside and avoid physical activity.