Neighbors plead with City Council to halt live burn training exercise
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Residents of a southeast Cairo neighborhood came out Monday night in opposition to their neighbor’s plan for the city fire department to conduct a live burn training event at 420 First Street S.E.
Dale Russell Harrison Jr., owner of the residence, said his property was severely damaged in the March 3 tornado and he decided it would be cheaper for the fire department to burn it as part of a training exercise than for him to have the house razed and the lot cleared.
Cairo Fire Chief Bill Schafer said that Harrison had done everything he was required to do and had even removed the asbestos siding, which was required before the live burn training could take place.
“I can’t guarantee 100 percent that nothing will happened, but I’m 95 percent sure. We could extinguish the fire at anytime,” the chief said.
According to the fire chief, the house would be set on fire at its south end, away from neighboring structures. By doing so, the neighboring structures would not be exposed to the heat. He also said a water curtain would be set up as a continuous barrier between the damaged home and neighboring residences.
The chief noted that the training exercise could not take place unless the smoke dispersion rate was such that the smoke would rise and not be held down.
Jimmy and Debbie Johnson, 416 First Street S.E., voiced opposition to the burn training and told councilmen that the house to be burned was only 33 feet from their residence.
The Johnsons had to reroof their home following Hurricane Michael and now after the March 3 tornado they are awaiting a contractor to reroof it again.
“We’ve got a good fire department. But, our home is all we’ve got,” Jimmy Johnson said.
Debbie Johnson questioned the effects of the smoke caused by the live burn training, and she asked if the city would be responsible for eliminating odors of smoke that may enter her home next door.
Jerry Lloyd and Carrie Carpenter, 80 Fourth Avenue S.E., also expressed concern with the plan.
Lloyd said he had worked in construction for many years and had seen things go wrong. He asked for a guarantee if the fire department lost control of the fire the city would be responsible for all damages.
Ms. Carpenter asked why the home could not just be bulldozed down.
Debbie Johnson said they were “pleading” with city officials to stop the fire training from happening.
Harrison, the homeowner, said he had been involved with heavy equipment and he estimated it would cost a minimum of $5,000 to $10,000 to have the home razed and it was money he did not have.
Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas requested the city manager meet with all parties and determine if it is in the best interest of the city to proceed or not and bring back a recommendation, which the council agreed to unanimously.
In other business Monday night, the council:
Approved a special event permit for the 2nd annual Community Summer Jam to be held at Holder Park on June 15 from 1 p.m. until 7 p.m. Harry Anderson is the applicant, but the presentation was made by Jevar McGhee.
Approved closing North Broad Street from First Avenue N.E. to Third Avenue N.W./N.E. on May 10 for the Great Southern Antique Car Rally street dance. A special event permit for the two-day event was also approved. The applicant was Cairo-Grady County Chamber of Commerce executive director Trey Gainous.