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Pricey Mulcher May Survive Fire

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A half-million-dollar-plus 3680 Beast mulcher may survive a fire that damaged it Tuesday — meaning taxpayers won’t have to shell out the bucks to replace it.

The fire, which hit the machine at the joint city-county Buckman Road Recycling and Transfer Station, doesn’t appear to be arson, according to city police.

Sgt. Gardner Finney responded to a call just after midnight Tuesday at the site, along with a city fire engine. He found the large machine in flames near a 20-foot-tall, 100-foot-long pile of wood chips, a section of which also was burning. The fire appeared to have been burning inside the machine, according to Finney, who wrote in his report that the metal surfaces were very hot and paint had been burned off.

Security guard Samantha Salazar told Finney she was on duty when she noticed smoke and then sparks falling from the machine behind the chip piles. Both access gates to the area were locked and she said she did not see anything out of the ordinary, according to the police report.

Finney said the fire department would report on the fire and there could be a fire investigation. However, he added that the fire appeared to be accidental.

Site superintendent Eddie Lovato told Finney that hot materials may have ignited during the normal operation of the machine, which could cost up to $700,000 to replace. Firefighters said the machine may be a total loss, but Lovato was more optimistic in an interview Tuesday afternoon.

Lovato said he didn’t think the mulcher caught fire because of equipment failure, nor did he think it was a total loss. He said the Beast could be repaired, but he was not sure how much it would cost to fix it.

Green waste is chewed up at the site to create mulch that local residents can pick up to use on their gardens and landscaping.

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