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View Full Version : Fire safety: WWYD? Rant!!!



TheresanAppfurthat
May. 16, 2011, 12:46 PM
Any and all of us who have horses are rightfully worried about fire safety and are likely diligent about doing everything possible to prevent fires and observe safety and emergency planning at all times.

WWYD about this situation?

On April 8 my neighbors trespassed on my property approx 30 feet inside the (no-fence) property line - they do know where the property line is based on their lawn mowing habits, amazingly straight mowing line! They built an approx 8-10 foot high, approx 15 foot x 12 foot long/wide burn pile of land clearing debris and construction debris and household garbage and torched it. And left the property completely--they did not arrive home until several hours after I discovered the fire when I got home from work (no idea when they started the fire). It was approx 20 feet from my barn. My BF and I put it out. Neighbor was unrepentant (use your imagination) but did grudgingly promise not to do it again.

Last Friday May 13 again came home from work. This time the fire was on "their" side of the property line (barely). This time the pile wasn't as tall but was longer and wider. Again, no one in attendance. Because my barn is close to the property line, this time the fire was only approx 12 feet away. And, as with the previous fire, the wind was blowing the wrong way.

This time the neighbor was outright abusive, screaming, spitting, and threatening my horses and me.

I did report it to our mutual landlord who stated to me that if I didn't like it I could leave and that "if you aren't burnt up and your horses aren't burnt up you can't complain."

Needless to say I spent all weekend looking for a safer place to live. And will be addressing the trespass issue with the first fire with an attorney. I understand that these people are all in violation of common sense if not the laws. All that being said, would anyone care to share their thoughts and what they would do in this situation?

GoForAGallop
May. 16, 2011, 12:55 PM
I would have called my local police station/town hall and politely inquired whether a burn permit was needed. After that, I would have called my fire station and politely questioned whether it was safe for "a huge 20' long burn pile, left unattended, to be within ten feet of a horse barn full of hay?"

Non-emergency numbers for the fire/police, of course. (Which, in my town, happens to be the same number, but that's what you get for living in a small place! :lol:)

Your landlord is right in that if they want to burn, they can burn. But you are correct in that there should be some rules about where the burn pile is located, whether it is attended or not, and when it is being burned.

Around here, the local fire/police take improper burn sessions VERY seriously. Big fines.

MunchkinsMom
May. 16, 2011, 12:59 PM
I would have called my local police station/town hall and politely inquired whether a burn permit was needed. After that, I would have called my fire station and politely questioned whether it was safe for "a huge 20' long burn pile, left unattended, to be within ten feet of a horse barn full of hay?"

Non-emergency numbers for the fire/police, of course. (Which, in my town, happens to be the same number, but that's what you get for living in a small place! :lol:)

Your landlord is right in that if they want to burn, they can burn. But you are correct in that there should be some rules about where the burn pile is located, whether it is attended or not, and when it is being burned.

Around here, the local fire/police take improper burn sessions VERY seriously. Big fines.

Same here, a quick phone call to the proper authorities usually handles it.

If the authorities say that the nitwits are in the clear, then I would soak down every inch of land between the burn pile and my property.

CHT
May. 16, 2011, 01:02 PM
I agree with above; I would have called to find out about burn permits and safety regulations, and taken photos/video of the fire before putting it out.

I would also move!

TheresanAppfurthat
May. 16, 2011, 01:05 PM
Well - believe it or not, local fire (VFD) responded lackadaisically with "well ma'am if you claim someone built a fire on your property just call us next time and we'll sure come right out and put it out for you."

They also would not tell me if there was a valid burn permit for the May 13 fire and would not confirm regulations for prohibited materials, setbacks, attendance requirements, footprint of burn pile, anything. Don't know if I reached someone just covering phones but they were very vague - polite, but vague. (Serves me right for living in a very small town!)

This morning, I contacted the office of the State Fire Marshal and they offered their opinion that someone putting a fire on my property was "arson" and I need to turn it in to the police. I'm going to let my attorney handle that one as I want to be absolutely sure of the law before accusing someone of a crime. I am also very worried about retaliation issues.

merrygoround
May. 16, 2011, 01:19 PM
Your mistake was in not calling the Fire Department and/or the police immediately the first time. If it had gotten out of hand when you were damping it you would have had to wait for them to get there. Calling them first, they'd have been there.

And they could have dealt with the idjits next door.

2DogsFarm
May. 16, 2011, 02:44 PM
I may be wrong (I often am) but IMO the landlord would be the one who can rightfully claim arson, unless the fire was set inside the property you are occupying - house or barn.
Does your lease specify acreage included in the rental?
Do you carry insurance on the barn?
If yes, I'd ask my agent about coverage for loss just to establish you would have a claim.

Yes, it sucks that your neighbors are so fire-ignorant.
But I live in a small town too and unless you secure a burn permit the local FD will not only come & extinguish your fire, but charge you for the service.
Repeat offenders get cited as well.

JackSprats Mom
May. 16, 2011, 03:23 PM
Have you actually sat down with your neighbors calmly and explained clearly your worries and concerns about the barn and the flammable material in it?

Often the conversations had in the heat of the moment tend not to be the most productive.

You'd be amazed at how easily resolved alot of problems are (not all, I admit, but MOST) if you stay calm and clear and don't accuse.

BuddyRoo
May. 16, 2011, 04:27 PM
If you owned the property you're living on, I suspect that you might have more teeth in this battle. But as it stands, I'm not so sure.

That said, nearly everywhere that I've lived has specific code for this regarding the distance from buildings and structures plus being present plus needing burn permits. I realize that's not the case everywhere though.

At the end of the day though, I think you need to carefully review your situation. If your barn burns down and your horses are dead, regardless of if the fire was legal or not, you lose. If you press this issue and get evicted with no place to go, you lose.

I think that were I in your shoes, I'd not spend another moment trying to sort out the laws at your current location. I'd find a new place to live/keep the horses. At least the latter.

Sometimes, you just can't fix stupid.

JanM
May. 16, 2011, 04:39 PM
JSM-apparently the neighbor has already been abusive and threatening on the second occasion, so I don't think even going near him is a safe thing to do. I only spotted that part on the second reading myself, but your approach would probably work with someone who is reasonable, but doesn't know about the dangers involved.

I second what Buddy Roo said, in that finding another place immediately is the only answer.

Calhoun
May. 16, 2011, 05:11 PM
I did report it to our mutual landlord who stated to me that if I didn't like it I could leave and that "if you aren't burnt up and your horses aren't burnt up you can't complain."


What a dumb landlord. Now you'll move and he'll have to spend money trying to find a renter and possibily go a few months w/o rent.

OverandOnward
May. 16, 2011, 05:32 PM
What a dumb landlord. Now you'll move and he'll have to spend money trying to find a renter and possibily go a few months w/o rent.Not to mention that his less-responsible tenants might actually manage to burn the barn down, eventually, or something equally as destructive. It is the landlord's barn, after all. OP, you are well clear of all these idiots. Some people are a pain no pill can cure. In spite of your considerable inconvenience, still, try to forget about them as you leave them to their fate.

Your landlord's indifference to the burning makes me wonder if he was already aware of the other renter's clearing activities, and actually approved of it. Why he would be so idiotic about the barn, I can't imagine ... it seems to me he would have been open to a lot of legal jeopardy had you or your horses "burnt up." But it makes no difference what he was really thinking, since you have the sense to kick the lot of them to the curb and move on.

Wherever you go, you might try to be sure the fire & police services are also a more responsible lot than the ones where you are now. Good luck. :)

katarine
May. 16, 2011, 05:46 PM
YOu need one of these, if only for a giggle this afternoon. Make sure you flip through the customer images :)

http://www.amazon.com/Contech-Electronics-CRO101-Scarecrow-Motion-Activated/dp/B000071NUS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1305582312&sr=8-1

AliCat518
May. 16, 2011, 05:57 PM
katarine--THANK YOU for that laugh. The customer images just made my day!!

TheresanAppfurthat
May. 16, 2011, 07:02 PM
Thank you all for supportiveness. Yes, the neighboring tenant is extremely abusive. It should not surprise you he is abusive and neglectful of his three dogs and that he also allows his dogs to run my fence when horses are out. He has done other things too. Apparently he lives on the place at reduced rent because he does odd jobs for the landlord. (Yikes! anyone remember "Odd Job"?? from the movies I think wasn't he a Bond baddie?? Maybe not. But I digress. As usual.) I do think that the landlord has some stake in this not sure what but don't intend to stick around and find out.

Because of the foreclosures in this area being so high rentals are extremely difficult to find. However, I am looking at one tomorrow that might work well and is available immediately for a price, of COURSE. Sigh. There goes my summer vacation. Would rather spend summer vacation at home with my LIVE horses than stick around and have them die in a fire. That does not even bear thinking about.

My lawyer says I can likely get statutory attorney fees if I sue. You know what, I work in the law biz and I see the terrible toll litigation takes on people - whether they are right or whether they are wrong, so few truly "win" in these things except, perhaps, the lawyers. In this case however, I might just need a judgment against my landlord to be able to pay for the next place which promises to be an awful lot more expensive. Moving is hard and expensive at any time and to have to do so on the spur of the moment and not at your own choosing is terrifying. I dread coming in the driveway at night and thinking what if....Yes. the sooner out, the better.

As you say, there is no cure for stupid. Plus I think there's a strong likelihood of the "Gobernatz" effect going on and that you really can't do anything about. I am spending the night packing to move - hopefully to the place I'm looking at tomorrow. And hoping my boss will give me some days off to do so.

shakeytails
May. 16, 2011, 09:11 PM
My idiot neighbors had a burn barrel about 100ft from my hay barn- in a drought year! DH politely asked him not to burn, he said OK and as soon as DH's back was turned he squirted more lighter fluid on the fire. I was at a horse show out of state or I would have gone ballistic! DH kept his cool and called dispatch rather than going to jail and thus having nobody to feed the critters. The fire chief (volunteer) came out to deal with it. The neighbors were PO'ed but they didn't do it again for quite some time. Just call the fire department and let them handle it- even here in BFE they have laws against burning.

sdlbredfan
May. 16, 2011, 09:21 PM
Until you move, can you get a restraining order to forestall any retaliatory behavior? Please keep us posted and let us know when you have found a safer place!

Kestrel
May. 17, 2011, 01:00 AM
I think that in this jurisdiction it is illegal to leave a burn unattended, and that the powers that be take it very seriously. Maybe that angle will help.

CatOnLap
May. 17, 2011, 01:34 AM
to answer the original question WWYD?
1)move ( oh you thought of that)
or
2)build a big fence between the neighbours and your barn. 4 strands of hot wire, 6 feet tall should do in a pinch. With enough current to stun a tyrannosaur...

slantedhorse
May. 17, 2011, 06:11 AM
In my county, you are required to call the fire department when you start the fire, stay with it until its completely out, then call them back to let them know you are done.

I think you need to be 300 ft from ANY structure incl fencing

fwiw

jetsmom
May. 17, 2011, 12:42 PM
When they aren't around, dump lighter fluid in a trail from the burn pile to their home. Clear a path between the burn pile and your barn, to avoid having anything that can burn there. Next time they try to burn surrepticiously, it will go straight to their home. Problem solved.

Just kidding, but it is a nice revengeful thought.:D

JoZ
May. 17, 2011, 01:22 PM
What I don't understand is why the OP thinks he/she has a "property line". There is one landlord for both properties. You are a tenant. You have no lines... :)

My landlord would laugh in my face if I considered my tenancy gave me any boundaries on what is all his land.

Maybe I'm wrong on this, but if the landlord is OK with the fires and it is not illegal, you are SOL. If it IS illegal, you may be legally in the right but screwed in terms of peaceful relations with co-tenant, landlord or both. That's not the way it should be but it is the way it is... :no:

TheresanAppfurthat
May. 17, 2011, 04:45 PM
JoZ - perhaps I left out this part: these are two side-by-side legal parcels. Separate tax lots. Separate addresses. Separate driveways. Separate houses. The landlord owns both separate parcels of property. Just because there does not happen to be a fence on one line between the two legally separate parcels of property (with their separate tax issues and separate addresses and separate driveways) doesn't mean that there "are no lines."

I have now confirmed that both fires were completely illegal. The authorities declined to help - local Fire Department is volunteer only, and they state they have no policing authority. Local Sheriff says it's a "civil matter." Regulations by state law are: no more then 30 cubic feet of material to be burned, fire must be attended by an adult at ALL times, a water hose with water actually available must be within 10 feet of the fire, the fire must set back a minimum of 50 feet from any structure, yard debris only may burn no construction debris or land clearing debris or household waste - and, finally, there must be a current posted burn permit. Not a single one of these laws was observed by the neighbor. You are right. The landlord doesn't care. The reason he doesn't care is that he gets the equivalent of about three grand a month of work out of the neighbor in exchange for about a grand and a half of rent forego - landlord doesn't have to pay a licensed contractor, doesn't have to pay workers comp or liability insurance, lots and lots of benefits to the landlord.

It is ironic that for the first fire that was built on my leased premises by the trespassing neighbor, I was still in the "get along with the neighbors even if they are complete jerks" mode. No good deed goes unpunished, obviously! And, second, if I had called out the fire dept to put out the fire, and it was on my leased premises, are they really going to believe that "someone else set the fire" - um, no. No they are certainly not, they would more likely believe that I was lying to get out of paying fines for an unpermitted burn of prohibited size burning prohibited materials in an area prohibitively close to a wooden structure housing live animals - my barn. That is why I chose to recruit the BF and put it out myself. Plus, with the wind coming up, I was taking no chances that the VFD would tarry in responding to my situation with their sole and only truck. I saw it, I handled it. No one died, thank Epona!

Kinda funny how municipalities work - they go after the first person they think is "guilty" and might possibly have $$$$$ - and if I tried to tell them gee it wasn't me reeeeeellllllyyyyyy!!!! I can assure you, I would be told to go sort it out later with the neighbor in court - right after the municipality collected the very hefty set of fines from ME for a fire I didn't set, instead of from the actual firebug from whom they clearly intend to collect nothing from.

And, I do intend to go to court.

Also if any of you have ever done any work perhaps on a volunteer or charity basis with violence issues such as domestic violence or work with at-risk youth, you likely already know that restraining orders can sometimes make situations much worse. A really good solution is to demand a "peace bond" which means that if any of the actors decide to get out of hand, they forfeit bond and pay through the nose - and, usually, money is the only thing that means anything to those types of people. Hit them hard hard hard in the wallet and they will generally thereafter leave you the hell alone!!!

SGray
May. 17, 2011, 04:59 PM
"and, usually, money is the only thing that means anything to those types of people. Hit them hard hard hard in the wallet and they will generally thereafter leave you the hell alone!!!"

this!!!

tried and tried to get neighbors to confine their rottie that was chasing my horses

'he's just playing' -- 'he wouldn't chase them if they didn't run' -- etc

finally caught the jerk of a husband and explained that my horses were insured for $$$s and they if they were injured or killed by the actions of his dog the insurance co. would be collecting my payout from HIM

dog got gone in an instant (of course, a$$ that he was the husband told his little kids that I made him kill the dog)