Stump Fire Escalation

The Scene/County currents and undercurrents

March 06, 1991|By Patrick L. Hickerson Marc LeGoff

If it weren't for the Persian Gulf war, I think it's obvious what story would be the main topic of dinner conversations and talk radio debates in the Baltimore metropolitan area: that pesky stump fire in Granite.

It is intriguing. The fire is fueled by stumps, which are not a terribly popular source of fuel. What little I know about stumpsas a fuel is that my dad used to cram them in the fireplace on special occasions because he knew they would burn until next Christmas.

But for the majority of us, there's no fire in this stump fire, just smoke -- lots of it. Along stretches of I-70 and the Baltimore beltway in western Baltimore County, I've driven my car through the Dantesque, transient gray clouds of acrid smoke that emanate from Granite.

I've never been to L.A. in the summer, but I'm sure this is good training.

What is more remarkable is that firefighters, some of whom have gone to college and made careers in this profession, have no idea when this one will be quenched.

A team of special firefighters from Missouri gave up on Granite's quandary and headed back home. Red Adair, the famous oil-fire fighter, will probably be back in Texas after stopping hundreds of Kuwaiti oil fires before we'll see those smoldering stumps slaked.

But it wasn't until last Monday nightthat I began to see -- or rather smell -- a conspiratorial element in this ongoing event. I was westbound on I-70 when, just as I crossedinto Howard County, I smelled the smoke of memories.

Wasn't it only two years ago that Clarksville was the center of publicity when its stump dump along Shepherd Lane caught fire and became a something of interest to the media?

Remember Alfred S. Bassler, the owner ofthe dump, who won his dogged campaign in the fall of 1988 to create his enterprise, much to the consternation of his neighbors? Almost one year to the day after he received permission for his dump, it was on fire.

I wasn't exactly downcast over his misfortune. I usually had to yield half of Shepherd Lane to those stump-filled 18-wheelers that seemed ill-fitted and possibly a tad overweight to traverse the narrow, stone bridges.

And for a man with a 400-acre farm in that area, the estimated $25,000 in cleanup costs is pocket change.

Which brings us back to Granite: a bigger fire, a bigger bill (estimated at $100,000) and much more publicity. But I do see the ground laid for Howard County's regaining its status as the stump inferno capital.

If I recall correctly, last fall a number of tractor-trailers topped with stumps traveled westward on Route 144, turning into Manor Lane to some destination I know not where.

Maybe one dump owner in the county is working, unknowingly, to close the county's stump fire gap.


With team names like Daughters of Destruction, Aquanetters, Wild Childs and Raspberry Rockers, Howard County Sun readers might think they are reviewing the latest women's roller derby or mud wrestling scores.

However, these colorful nicknames belong to several of the 35 intramural girls teams in the Columbia Basketball Association.

"I tell the coaches and players to choose names that are fun and imaginative," league commissioner Don Wilson said. "Normal names from pro or college teams are boring. The girls get a real kick dreaming them up each season."

Wilson, 43, has been involved with the CBA for 11 years. He coaches the Flash, a squad his 8-year-old daughter, Jessica, plays on.

Coach Tom Kline says his group of 12- and 13-year-olds narrowed it down to three selections -- Daughters of Doom, Daughters of Disaster or Daughters of Destruction. "I told them to pick something intimidating," he said.

The menacing moniker seems to be working, because Kline's Daughters of Destruction boasts a 6-2 record and has defeated its opponents by an average of 10points. The two losses came at the hands of the Beautiful Grayhounds, 20-18, and Red Blaze, 16-15.

Kline, who coached Heavy T and the Terminators last year, says that all of the teams in the Columbia league have eight girls, each of whom is guaranteed two quarters of playing time per game.

The three age divisions -- 8-9, 10-11 and 12-13-- practice one day a week, with games played on weekends.

"Some of the team names are direct results of what color jerseys the coaches had to hand out," Wilson said.

This includes such "shade-y"-sounding squads as the Teal Double Dribblers, Peppermint Ladies, Blue Belles, Orange Chargers and Mini Golden Bears.

The jersey color of the dreaded Daughters death battalion is none other than black.

Wilson says that when he pressed the Just Pink crew to decide on its name, the girls responded: "We don't know, we're just pink."

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