Pasco company fined after weekend brush fire in Odessa

ODESSA, Fla. (WFLA) – Shawn Doherty has spent a lifetime in the recycling business.  As a matter of fact, the Seattle-native who now calls Pasco County his home, is well-versed in taking care of the earth.

What he never expected is how he would have to battle Mother Nature night and day. 

“This is Mother Nature and she’s hard to beat. Once it’s ready to catch fire, it’s hard to stop it,” he told News Channel 8 on Monday.

Doherty is the manager at PAW Materials, a demolition and recycling company in Pasco County.  He explains that with this searing heat and lack of rain, the company has been battling through the most vicious game of Whack-a-Mole for more than a week.

The ground beneath a massive mountain of mulch at the facility has been smoldering from the inside out.

“Literally can’t leave it. Cannot leave it,” he said. “You can water it, look how static, it’s fine. You go home and in the morning, there could be a fire on top.”

That’s exactly what happened. Employees have been working around the clock for days, soaking the mulch with thousands of gallons of water. Each day, they’d soak the mulch, 3,000 yards of it, and it continued to ignite.

All it took was one ember.

That one errant ember floated into the air and caught nearby Starkey Wilderness Park on fire over the weekend.  The company claims it has never had a problem like this before, and now it’s more serious than ever.

Remember the Whack-a-mole analogy?  Doherty tells us, mother nature’s madness creates a sinister mess with deep pockets in the ground smoldering.

“It gets hot down below and it burst into flames on the surface ,and you can put that out. But, it’s still hot and burning under there,” he said.

Pasco County issued a citation, they tell us, totaling more than $14,000.

Part of it is a fine, and the other part is the cost for fighting the fire.

“We’re going to have to stay on it to keep it from erupting in flames again, and that’s exactly what we’ll do,” he said.

 

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