Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Alleged illegal burn gets out of control

Crews called off after 2 hours


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

Firefighters from four agencies respond to a blaze at Anderson Asphalt south of Bellevue on Monday afternoon. Photo by Willy Cook

A small, allegedly illegal burn turned into a half-acre blaze Monday afternoon when employees at Anderson Asphalt south of Bellevue lost control of a debris fire.

Wood River Fire & Rescue Chief Bart Lassman said the department was dispatched to the scene just before 3 p.m. Monday, with a report that a pile of trade waste—cottonwood trees mixed with tires and construction debris—had caught fire.

Lassman said the fire started when winds kicked up and spread flames from a smaller, employee-set fire to the larger pile and into a patch of sagebrush.

Owner Larry Anderson did not have a burn permit, Lassman said. According to Department of Environmental Quality regulations, trade-waste burning is prohibited due to the hazardous pollution caused by burning large amounts of construction waste and similar materials.

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"He can pile it and bury it, but he can't burn it," Lassman said.

Firefighters from Ketchum, Sun Valley and Hailey worked for more than two hours before Lassman turned the fire over to Anderson Asphalt employees.

"The immediate threats to the outlying areas were taken care of," he said.

According to Lassman, Anderson has repeatedly called out departments to control illegal burns that have gotten out of control.

"We just don't think it's right that every time he decides to burn, the taxpayers end up footing the bill," he said.

Lassman said he plans to speak with the Department of Environmental Quality later this week regarding whether Anderson would be fined or simply issued a warning. The fine for a violation of this type is a minimum of $250.

"They think it's time something be done," Lassman said. "It's a systemic problem."

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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