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Firefighters Continue Battling Fire Near Austin Airport Overnight

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 04:12 PM CDT

Fire crews are working overnight battling a fire near the airport as waste piles, some as high as 30 feet, continue to burn. Firefighters are monitoring the situation closely, worried about high winds and visibility along nearby FM 973. It's happening inside the city's Hornsby Bend Biosolids Management Plant, just north of Austin Bergstrom International Airport.
Reliever crews arrived around 3 a.m. for the crews working since Monday. Outgoing firefighters on scene told KEYE-TV early Tuesday morning the fire is still smoldering and crews are still in containment mode. FM 973 remains open, and though the fire is contained to an area about a mile and a half from the plant entrance, officials say they're not letting their guard down.

Flashing lights of emergency vehicles, the glow of fire, and plenty of smoke continue to fill the air around the Hornsby Bend facility Tuesday morning, leaving fire crews watching and waiting, as compost piles continue to burn.

"We're just waiting for these winds to die down," said Jason Hill, spokesperson for Austin Water Utility. "Once these winds die down, we can work with Austin Fire Department to actually start putting the fires out in these compost piles."

Until then, Hill says Austin crews will stay on scene, making sure those fires stay contained.

"It's pretty impressive to see large piles of compost smoldering and flaming like this, but it's not moving though, and that's the most important thing," said Hill. "Threat to public property and health is definitely contained to this particular area."

Officials have been at the plant since Monday afternoon around 3 p.m. when the large mulch piles caught fire, fueled by winds gusting at times to 50 miles per hour.

"These extreme high winds when they hit those compost piles it can ignite and that's what happened," said Hill, who said the fire quickly spread through different areas in the composting piles, putting firefighters in a tough spot.

"The firefighters aren't really able to put out all the fires, so they just have to watch it burn."

But while that's happening, smoke continues to be a major challenge.

"Right now it's not creating as much smoke as it did earlier in the day," said Hill late Monday night.

"We're just hoping that these winds die down very soon." Especially with rush hour approaching and FM 973 next door.

"Everyone's monitoring just how much smoke is out there and if the needs to be a road shut down because of visibility that will happen," said Hill.

Fire crews say no structures are in danger. The Hornsby Bend plant produces "Dillo Dirt", the byproduct of the waste water treatment process, which is then used as fertilizer.

By Adam BennettFirefighters Continue Battling Fire Near Austin Airport Overnight

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