The state fire marshal will step in this week to help Baltimore County officials deal with the pesky stump fire near Granite and see whether the operation is violating any state fire codes.
County Administrator Merreen Kelly yesterday told neighbors of the stump dump, which has been burning for the past month, that the state fire marshal will meet with county fire officials Thursday to see if the operation, run by James F. Jett, meets state fire safety codes.
"State fire codes are broader and it may be there is some type of enforcement the state can follow through on that isn't available to us," Mr. Kelly said.
County fire investigators have ruled the blaze suspicious.
Deputy Chief Fire Marshal Bob Thomas said last night that the state would be "taking some steps to rectify the situation," but he declined to specify whether that meant helping put out the fire or taking action to curtail or shut down Mr. Jett's operation.
"The state fire marshal feels we are in a position to take some positive action to help the citizens of that area, and to help Baltimore County as well," Mr. Thomas said. "We expect by the end of this week to take some kind of action."
He said state Fire Marshal Rocco J. Gabriele has been to the site at least twice in the weeks since the fire was discovered Feb. 2, but he declined further comment.
Mr. Jett has declined comment since the fire was discovered.
To continue operating, he must meet conditions yet to be specified by county environmental officials who are reviewing the operation as part of an October 1989 law enacted to regulate stump dumps and other recycling facilities.
Mr. Kelly told the dump's neighbors that the 1989 law was the first measure to give the county regulatory powers over the dump and similar operations.
"This permit simply will give us control, because as it stands now, we have no control over that operation," he said.
He said the permit required of Mr. Jett will have some "very, very strict conditions."
Mr. Kelly, in an hourlong meeting, said he has become as frustrated as the dump's neighbors with the persistence of the fire and with the lack of ways to curb the truck traffic generated by the operation.
Neighbors of the dump remain angry and frustrated because they say their demands to close the dump -- based on a decade of concern about truck traffic, noise, storm water runoff and the threat of a fire -- have largely been ignored.
"There has been pathetic enforcement at this site," said Abraham Granek, a neighbor of the dump.
At a rally yesterday in Towson, Mr. Granek and a dozen of his neighbors marched in front of the County Office Building carrying signs imploring county officials to close the operation.
"We just don't feel a stump dump's an appropriate use of land in our community. It's an environmentally sensitive area, and there's too many people living nearby," said Dana Marvel, another neighbor.