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The chips are down, and so is the fire

Firefighters at the chip pile in December.—Thomas B. Nash photo

If you have a burning need for woodchips, there is much mulch to be had.

Since an internal fire broke loose just before Christmas in the behemoth debris pile that had built up at the town transfer station after recent years’ megastorms, the highway department has been looking for places to spread the woodchips around.

The fire within a 35-foot-high storm debris pile at the transfer station is almost certainly burned out, the town highway department reports.

“As of yesterday we actually took it all apart.”

Firefighters and highway crew members battled the fire that surfaced days before Christmas on and off for weeks.

“I think we’ve maybe responded down there three times” since the initial flames broke out, fire Chief Heather Burford said.

For the most part, the highway department has been piling snow onto hot spots as they surface and reducing the size of the pile.

“The highway department has done a really nice job of depleting that pile,” Chief Burford said.

Originally, because the pile was around 40,000 cubic yards (enough to fill a football field, end zones included, about six feet high), there was plenty of insulation to keep an internal fire protected from the cold and wet weather.

The department was looking at having a hauling company remove the mulch, but they’ve put the chips to use instead — delivering woodchips around town to the golf course, sports fields, and near roadsides.

“What we’ve been doing is we’ve actually been spreading them out around town between Parks and Rec and the golf course, and some of the side areas that grow weeds,” said Dave Buccitti, foreman for the highway department. He added, “It keeps the weeds down, makes a better sight line.”

Mr. Buccitti said the department doesn’t usually use woodchips for its work.

“We really don’t get into the landscaping,” he said, but since there is an abundance of chips, they’ve found uses for them and avoided paying someone to haul them away.

Mr. Buccitti said residents who want woodchips may pick them up in the back of the transfer station.

“We’ve always had that,” he said.

Residents may also stop by the highway department office, across from the Goodwill trailer and the recycling center, “if they want bigger volumes, like truckloads.”

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