The free-burning stump dump fire in Granite still burns, although faster than Baltimore County fire officials had expected.
County Battalion Chief Ralph Nelson said the fire has consumed as much as 40 percent of the huge piles of tree stumps that started burning Feb. 2. The fire site is at Patapsco Valley Farms in southwestern Baltimore County and smoke and odor from it wafted as far as eastern parts of Baltimore.
After firefighting efforts failed in February, the fire department expected the heap to burn as long as eight months, Nelson said. Now, "six months might still be realistic," he said.
The department had kept a watch of two firefighters and pumper on the site at all times after deciding to let the stump piles burn freely. By March, the fire had burned down enough for the department to switch from round-the-clock monitoring to daily checking, once each day and night, Nelson said.
Meanwhile, James Jett, the owner of Patapsco Valley Farms, has resumed business at the site. He is in negotiations with the county over his terms for complying with a new law that regulates county operations such as his.
An inspection within the last week showed that Jett had made "extensive progress" toward meet ing various safety terms of the new permit, including reducing the size of non-burning stump piles and grinding newly delivered stumps into mulch within a day of their arrival, Nelson said.
Another condition of the permit is for Jett to post a $6.6 million performance bond that would reimburse the county for future costs it might encounter if a fire or other calamity occurs again at the combination dump-Christmas tree farm.
Jett has until May to respond to the county's terms for complying with the new permit.
Arnold Jablon of the county law department said that if negotiations fail to reach a compromise in two or three weeks, the county would dig in its heels and Jett would have the option to appeal the terms of the permit to the county Board of Appeals.