Fairfield Ledger
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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 22, 2017

Council tables request to burn abandoned house Monday

By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | May 10, 2017

The Fairfield City Council tabled an action item Monday related to a possible controlled house burn.

Fairfield Fire Chief Scott Vaughan asked the city for permission to hold up to two controlled burns per year, in accordance with regulations of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. He said the department wants to practice putting out fires in an abandoned building to give firefighters the experience and confidence they need when the real thing happens.

Monday was the date of the public hearing on a controlled burn the fire department requested at 106 S. Maple St., an abandoned home owned by 106 South Maple LLC. A couple of neighbors spoke against burning the house. Vaughan said today that, after hearing from the neighbors, the department is no longer considering burning the house at 106 S. Maple St. He said there are other abandoned homes the department could burn instead.

Carole Simmons lives next door at 104 S. Maple St. and strongly objected to the fire department’s plan. She said her house is only about 30 feet away from the abandoned home, and that she did not want to put her home at risk. She asked why the department couldn’t burn an abandoned house in the countryside where it wouldn’t bother neighbors.

Marshan Roth, who lives across the street, also spoke against the burn. She wondered about the effect the smoke would have on people with breathing problems, like her own mother, who is bothered even by the smoke from a burn barrel. She was also curious who would clear the burned rubbish that remained.

Vaughan said the homeowner would be responsible for cleaning whatever remained of the building. As far as the damage it could cause to neighboring homes, Vaughan said the department would employ a water curtain, a long hose that lies on the ground and shoots up water. The constant stream of water acts as a barrier stopping the fire from moving beyond that point.

Vaughan said he was confident the fire would not spread to 104 S. Maple St. if a water curtain were employed. However, Vaughan also talked to an arborist about whether the trees between the two properties would be damaged, and he was told that they probably could not recover from a fire.

Vaughan said it would be ill-advised for the department to burn a house in the countryside, because that would increase the response time should they have to battle a real blaze in Fairfield.

After hearing from Vaughan and the neighbors, the council decided not to take any action on the controlled burn. Vaughan said today there was a miscommunication about what he had been asking for. He said he first wanted the council’s approval to do two controlled burns per year, and then to pick the address at a later date. The council’s agenda for Monday specified that 106 S. Maple St. was the subject of the controlled burn.

The council will take up the issue of controlled burns at its next meeting.

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