Stump dump fire costs Baltimore Co. more than $140,000 Underground hot spots continue after 7 months

September 17, 1991|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Baltimore County Bureau of The Sun

The cost to Baltimore County of fighting a 7-month-old stump dump fire near Granite has exceeded $140,000 and is growing as the fire continues to burn.

The major expenditures have been $20,400 for firefighters' salaries, $23,375 for a firefighting consultant and $49,341 for leasing heavy equipment, according to figures released yesterday by Baltimore County Budget Director Fred Homan.

As the tab mounted yesterday, Delegate Lawrence A. LaMotte, D-5B, announced he is setting up a "summit meeting" of state and county fire and environmental officials to come up with a plan for extinguishing the fire.

Mr. LaMotte said state Secretary of the Environment Robert Perciasepe and Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden agreed yesterday to cooperate in efforts to put out the fire in James Jett's stump dump on the 8700 block of Dogwood Road.

"I'm talking about getting everyone in the same room and keeping them there until we come up with a plan, determine the costs involved and see exactly what has to be done to put this fire out," he said.

"This has been going on since February, and a lot of people are wondering why," he said. "It's getting ridiculous."

News of a meeting was greeted warmly by county residents who have lived with acrid wood smoke in their streets and yards since the fire was discovered Feb. 2.

"At this point, anything that's a step toward getting that fire out is good news," said Tom DeMay, president of the Greater Patapsco Community Association.

Mr. DeMay, who lives a mile west of the dump, said that the rise in temperature and humidity over the weekend meant an increase in the smoky haze that has become a fact of life in his community.

County Fire Chief Elwood Banister said yesterday that the department is continuing to look for solutions but that the most obvious -- plowing up the mounds of earth to expose the burning rubble -- has proved too expensive.

Cost estimates from heavy equipment contractors to put out the fire last February ranged from $1.8 million to $5 million. Chief Banister said that because the fire has burned since then, the cost likely would be "considerably less," though he did not have an updated figure.

At one point during the hapless battle against the blaze, firefighters dumped 18,000 gallons of water per day on it. They also hired Team Kodiak, a Nixa, Mo., consultant, to apply a special foam.

Chief Banister said his office also looked into using National Guard equipment and personnel to dig up the fires burning throughout the 5-acre site, but that proved to be too expensive.

The department this week plans to again put a county police helicopter in the air equipped with an infrared camera capable of photographing the underground hot spots. Photos taken by a camera on loan for free to fire officials by the AAI Corp. on Aug. 22 revealed many underground areas burning in the 5-acre site, indicating the fire was more widespread than earlier believed.

A more sophisticated camera being marketed to the U.S. military by the Mitsubishi Corp. will be flown over the site in the next few weeks to take more detailed aerial photos of subterranean conditions at the site, fire officials said.

"What this will show is every little area where there's a problem," said Robert D. Conkwright, a sales representative and consultant for Mitsubishi, which also will lend the equipment for free.

Fire officials say they hope the photos will show them how deeply the fires are burning and help them come up with a plan for putting them out.

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