Fire Officials Say Spontaneously Combusting Playground Unlikely Occurrence - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

8/14/07

Fire Officials Say Spontaneously Combusting Playground Unlikely Occurrence

Surveillance video shows the black smoke ascending from the fire at an Arlington, Texas playground as firefighters rushed to extinguish the blaze.

"I never would have thought that could happen anywhere. I'm completely surprised by that!," says Dominique Jordan of Tyler.

The mother of three takes her kids to the Bergfeld Park playground at least twice a week. In the back of any parents mind after seeing the video: could this happen here?

"Normally what happens with spontaneous combustion, all the conditions have to be perfect," says Jeff Akin with the Tyler Fire Department.

Akin says those perfect conditions include the heavy rain which, in this case, saturated the mulch. 

Then came the nearly 100 degree temperatures which caused the mulch to decompose. The heat then ignited the chips on the surface.

East Texas has seen those elements most recently the scorching heat. But fire officials here say the chance of the mulch igniting is unlikely because of what happens on every playground.

Kids playing on the playground helps move the mulch around, to the keep the ones on the surface from getting too dry.

Akin adds, "Most of the mulch that's used in those playground areas is a very thin layer. So [spontaneous combustion] is very uncommon."

That comes as a relief to Dominique who worries more about her kids staying cool in the Texas heat.

"There are so many things that could happen in life.  But it's a good thing to be aware of when we have a lot of these hot days."

There are other problems this extreme heat could cause... Your child can be seriously burned on a playground.

Experts recommend kids keeping their shoes on at all times.... And parents should touch the playground equipment to make sure it won't burn them.

Christine Nelson reporting. cnelson@kltv.com

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