Planned fire prompts resident complaints

A planned fire that generated complaints from Barbour County residents has been extinguished, but the company responsible for the fire lacked the necessary permits prior to starting the blaze, officials with the state Department of Environmental Protection said Wednesday.

Kathy Cosco, the communications director for the Department of Environmental Protection, said the DEP was notified of the Ford Run Road fire near the Industrial Park area of Philippi on Sunday by at least one area resident complaining about the smoke. A company was burning debris from Superstorm Sandy in the form of chipped wood, Cosco said.

“The smoke was horrendous was what we were told,” Cosco said. “It turned out to be that that was what our inspector found. The way he described it to me was if you’re barbecuing and you want to smoke whatever it is you’re cooking, you wet the wood chips. The smoke that emanates from that is similar to what was taking place at this site.”

Rudy Williams, a regional forester for Region I of the state Division of Forestry, said the Hamlin-based construction company, Lincoln Leasing, was responsible for the fire.

“I believe it started last week, although they obtained the permit April 1,” Williams said Wednesday.

Philippi fire chief John Green said Tuesday that the company had obtained a permit for the controlled fire; however, Cosco noted the issued permit had been obtained through the Division of Forestry – not the DEP’s Division of Air Quality.

Cosco indicated that Lincoln Leasing should have also contacted the Division of Air Quality, which would have issued a separate permit – something the company failed to do. Cosco said it is important that companies try to make sure they have obtained all required permits because one permit alone may not be all that is needed.

“The important message here is that this is good work that the company is doing,” Cosco said. “They worked very willingly and diligently with us to handle this situation. It’s important that when companies seek out permits, they make sure they obtain all of the permits that they need.

“What our permit covers is the process that they use for burning. We get a little more specific as to what they’re burning,” Cosco continued. “If it’s something that’s going to produce a lot of smoke, typically, we ask the companies to find another way. Often that’s finding a business that can use that material for their processes.”

After receiving the first complaint, Cosco said an inspector visited the site on Monday and issued a request to extinguish the fire. The most recent word Cosco received on the fire was that it had been extinguished by Wednesday morning through efforts started on Tuesday. Cosco said the process was delayed because there was not a water source immediately available.

Although the fire has been extinguished, Cosco said it has to be watched closely because there is potential for it to rekindle.

Cosco also said there are mulching companies that are usually willing to take the type of chipped-wood material that Lincoln Leasing was burning.

“So that’s often how we encourage those companies to handle that, rather than burning it, because it does (create) a good deal of smoke,” Cosco said.

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