NEWPORT, Maine — A resident found it ironic that town officials want a prohibition on outdoor furnace burning yet gave firefighters permission Wednesday to burn a building in his neighborhood.
Gary Silvia, who met with selectmen Wednesday, said Thursday the perception is that some residents are being treated differently and that the guidelines for what may be burned and what may not be burned aren’t the same for all residents.
Although firefighters intend to burn a vacant house on Main Street for training purposes, town officials have rejected other requests for controlled burns of property, Silvia said. In one instance, he said, town officials told the owner that he had to remove the shingles and any boards that might have lead paint before firefighters would consider burning the property, yet those regulations don’t appear to be in effect for the Main Street property.
In the event a spark is carried into the air, Silvia, whose property is less than 400 feet away from the building, also asked selectmen for a certificate of liability as suggested by his insurance agent. He said he was told that the town has insurance coverage.
“It’s a practice that they’re setting the town up to be liable for something, if something does happen,” Silvia said.
Town Manager James Ricker said Thursday that the ordinance for the annual town meeting seeking a prohibition for outdoor furnace burning between May and October is different from the controlled burn.
Firefighters have been conducting training exercises inside the vacant home for about two months, Ricker said, and now want to burn the entire building. The property is 175 to 200 feet from the closest building.
Ricker said the requests for controlled burns on other properties in the past were made under a former fire chief who did not want to do the burns.
As for liability, Ricker said, “The town is always open to liability. It’s the world we live in.” He said the controlled burn involves a cedar-sided house with an asphalt roof. “It’s perfectly legal for a fire department for purposes of training to burn that type of a structure.”
“This is all about training. This isn’t about helping this citizen and not helping that one,” Ricker said.
Ricker said firefighters would provide notice to Silvia and his neighbors when the burn is planned. For the future, selectmen requested the fire chief to come up with criteria for the safe burning of anything the Fire Department might be requested to burn.