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Lea Hill Brush Fire Caused by Spontaneous Combustion

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A brush fire on Lea Hill | photo from VRFA

Valley Regional Fire Department crews responded to a brush fire in the 29800 block of 138th Ave. SE on Lea Hill Sunday afternoon. Engine 334 was still on scene Monday afternoon, monitoring and controlling the fire.

According to the VRFA Fire Investigator, the fire was started by spontaneous combustion in a large pile of leaves and grass clippings.


Spontaneous combustion occurs when materials self-heat to a hot enough temperature to ignite. In a compost pile or large piles of yard waste debris, the breakdown of organic matter causes the pile to heat up internally. Chemical processes, like oxidation, begin once the temperature reaches a certain level. Moisture can accelerate the process.

Learn More: The Phenomenon of Spontaneous Combustion

The Fire Investigator estimated the debris pile that ignited Sunday to be 192,000 cubic feet in size. That’s roughly twice as large as an olympic swimming pool.

The original call came in just before 3:30 pm Sunday. Crews rotated, monitoring and controlling the fire overnight and through Monday.  VRFA stated they “anticipated [it] to take several hours to dig out and extinguish. Efforts could extend into the day tomorrow due to heavy debris in the area,” stated VRFA.


Public Information and Education Officer Kimberly Terhune stated “the projected length of time is due to a combination of the size [and] depth of the pile, the difficulty separating and cooling the debris due to the slope it is located upon, and limited water supply.”

The location of the fire is on a steep slope and has no access to fire hydrants. Water was brought in by fire tenders. The home on the property is approximately 75 feet from the fire.

No one was injured.


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Last updated: November 17, 2020, 2:54pm


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