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Yard debris, then houses, burned

Decomposing material in a garbage can spontaneously started a fire that devastated two houses in Ashland

ASHLAND ' Spontaneous combustion in a trash can full of lawn clippings, yard debris and bird seed sparked the fire that gutted two homes here Tuesday, fire officials said.

Materials inside a metal garbage container next to a south wall at 935 Cypress Point Loop decomposed, generating heat, said Keith Woodley, Ashland fire chief. Combined with outside temperatures of more than 100 degrees, it created conditions that sparked flames, which spread up the side of the home and into the attic.

From there, the fire spread to 941 Cypress Point Loop, the house next door. Together, officials estimate damage from the fire at more than &

36;300,000.

I don't know what the temperature was inside the can, but if it's 102 degrees outside, it's maybe 120 inside. If the ignition point is 200 degrees for pine needles and debris, you don't have far to go.

Woodley urged homeowners to dispose of clippings away from buildings. He emphasized that lawn clippings should not be stored in tightly enclosed containers because of the likelihood of combustion. And he urged that clippings and vegetation be disposed of promptly.

Properly maintained compost piles don't create conditions for combustion, Woodley added.

In a related matter, fire officials said that cigarettes tossed into a trash can appeared to have caused a Monday fire that caused &

36;235,000 in damage to a house at 910 Glendower St., Ashland.

The fire started on the back patio deck near the outside wall of the home before quickly spreading to the roof and attic.

No one was injured in any of the fires.