AUSTIN (KXAN) - The high winds ripping through Central Texas didn't start any major brush fires on Monday afternoon, but they did fuel a large compost fire in Hornsby Bend Water Treatment Plant on Farm to Market 973, near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Southeast Austin.
Austin firefighters have the fire under control, but they are letting the fire burn itself out. On Christmas Day 2012, a smaller fire at the same site caused by milder winds took several days to die down.
"(This fire) could be burning for days," said Austin Water spokesman Jason Hill. "We're discussing and looking at all the different options on how we move forward from here in regards to attacking the compost piles and putting the fires out."
The city breaks down solid waste at the site with strong chemicals. The heated material reacted with heavy winds to spontaneously combust, sending flames and smoke high enough into the air that it could be seen for several miles.
"As of right now, the smoke is not a threat to public health," said Hill. "We're waiting on more data to come in from the Austin Fired Department to determine the next steps in that particular area."
Hill said crews are testing the air quality of the site on Tuesday. Medical personnel have responded to several homes just east of the plant with complaints from people complaining about respiratory issues. People with breathing issues should remain indoors until the smoke clears.
As smoke floated near homes, it also blew over FM 973, decreasing visibility for traffic. Hill said emergency crews would be ready to respond if necessary, but drivers should use caution.
There is approximately 100 acres of compost at the plant, but it's not known how many acres of compost has burned. The compost piles are about 20 feet high.
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