Stump fire neighbor files suit


A neighbor of the burning stump dump near Granite has filed suit in Baltimore County Circuit Court, seeking a court order to require the county to put out the fire in the mountain of tree stumps.

The wood has been smoldering for six weeks.

The suit, filed on behalf of Marthetta E. Kelley of Hernwood Road, says the county's decision to let the stump dump on Dogwood Road burn freely means continuation of "a definite hazard to the health and welfare of the community."

The suit, filed by Mrs. Kelley's husband, attorney John J. Kelley, says that the "smoke, soot and noxious odors" have affected areas "10 miles from the site" and that by not fighting the fire, the county is failing to fulfill its legal obligation to protect the surrounding communities.

"The decision to abandon efforts to extinguish the fire is an arbitrary and capricious abandonment of the legal duty of the Baltimore County Fire Department," the suit says.

County fire officials said last month that they would let the fire burn freely -- after a special foam failed to put it out.

County environmental officials said yesterday that an application the dump's owner, James F. Jett, for a recycling facility permit as required under a 1989 law was being reviewed by County Executive Roger B. Hayden and County Attorney H. Emslie "Lee" Parks and may be approved in the next few days.

The permit would require Mr. Jett to post a $6.7 million bond, intended to cover clean-up costs if he defaulted on the operation, county officials said.

Mr. Kelley said he hoped a circuit judge would agree to hear the case.

"I just want the Fire Department to do what they should do and put the damn fire out," he said.

County Attorney Parks said he would file a motion to dismiss the suit -- termed a writ of mandamus -- within the next few weeks, arguing that such a writ is not a proper legal action in the case.

"He is asking the Fire Department to do something that the Fire Department cannot do, does not have the power to do," Mr. Parks said.

Battalion Chief Ralph Nelson said yesterday that there has been no change from the department's Feb. 19 decision to continue to let the stumps burn freely.

He said that using high pressure hoses to flood the four-acre site might put out the fire, but it might also wash a mountain of burned wood and soot down into the nearby streams and rivers.

Fire officials looked into hiring a contractor to use heavy equipment to pick apart the mountain of stumps, but they were told it would take at least three months and cost at least $1.8 million.

"All of these things have been looked into and considered, but there's negative ramifications to all of them," Chief Nelson said.

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