Debris Fire Sparks Neighborhood Concern

A burning debris pile on a vacant lot in Gulf Park Estates prompted phone calls of concern from residents and two visits by the volunteer fire department.

High winds fanned the flames, blowing burning embers toward nearby homes.

The burning is not only a potential threat to neighbors, it's also an apparent violation of DEQ regulations.

Gulf Park Estates has experienced a tremendous building boom over the past few years. And that's part of the problem. Years ago, contractors burning debris seldom caused concern. But with so many houses in that area now, extra caution is required.

"We had a pretty good wind last night. And some of the cinders were blowing around, you could see that," said Dot Adams, who lives across the street from the still smoldering land clearing debris.

The smoking pile appears much safer now. Twelve hours earlier a strong wind fanned a raging fire.

"This neighborhood has built up a lot. And now with all these homes here they've got to be a little extra careful. Before when they cleared a lot, there wasn't too much around," Adams said.

Robert King lives in the house nearest the burning. He told WLOX News he has no problems with the burning itself. However, he was concerned when burning embers from the fire were blowing toward his home.

The Gulf Park Estates volunteer fire department responded to the burning debris twice Thursday night. The first time, the contractor used dirt to snuff out the blaze. When it flared up again later, the returning firefighters used water to put it out.

During our visit to the neighborhood, a representative from the Department of Environmental Quality also checked out the smoldering pile. Rebecca Comyns pointed out that such a burn violates DEQ regulations.

Those regulations say such open burning of land clearing debris, "must not occur within 500 yards of an occupied dwelling".

Neighbors like Dot Adams appreciate why such safeguards are necessary.

"I know we've had a lot of rain, but a lot of us have leaves in our yard that could catch fire real easily," she said.

WLOX News tried unsuccessfully to reach the contractor responsible for the burning. The DEQ representative says there is typically no action taken on a first violation. The contractor will be given a copy of the appropriate regulations which prohibit such burning. Any future violations could result in a fine.