SHIPPING: Lighter Fluid Not Required

Lighter Fluid Not Required

It nearly became Southern California's largest and most dangerous charcoal grill. When the cargo vessel Fort Providence sailed into port near Los Angeles, area residents were alarmed to hear that the ship was carrying 54,000 tons of coal close to igniting. Under way from Baton Rouge, La., to Taiwan, the coal began heating up, and its temperature reached 169 degrees F.

Officials last week began what they saw as the only solution: unload the cargo and spread it out over 1 1/2 acres to cool. Experts attribute the incendiary quality of the Fort Providence cargo to Louisiana's hot climate and to...