Weatherford Democrat

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September 12, 2012

Illegal burn lands man in jail

WEATHERFORD — An illegal burn landed a man in a jail cell Monday night, and the Parker County Fire Marshal’s Office is warning any others who decide to do the same that they could face more than just the citations the office has written in the past.

David Glenn McCoy, 42, was charged with violation of the Clean Air Act, a class A misdemeanor.

Assistant Fire Marshal Frank Watson alleges McCoy was illegally burning construction debris and other materials from the demolition of a mobile home rather than properly disposing of them.

McCoy denies he knowingly burned illegal materials, stating he was only burning wood.

The law prohibits burning tires, electrical wire insulation, treated lumber, plastics, non-wood construction or demolition materials, heavy oils, asphaltic materials, potentially explosive materials, furniture, carpet, chemical wastes and items containing natural or synthetic rubber, according to the fire marshal’s office.

Watson responded to a complaint of an illegal burn in the 7000 block of Brazos Trail in Horseshoe Bend around 10 p.m. Monday and found a single-wide mobile home with approximately 25 feet of the exterior wall removed, a 3-foot deep by 10-foot wide by 20-foot long fire pit, a 5-foot tall pile of construction debris and an overflowing “roll off” dumpster.

Inside the pit, he reportedly found the remnants of a vehicle bench seat, aluminum siding, roofing materials, copper wiring, electrical wiring insulation, creosole-treated posts, paint cans, fiber glass insulation and other materials.

McCoy reportedly told Watson that he had recently purchased the property and was attempting to clean it up.

McCoy said he didn’t know what the problem was, that he was being safe about burning, Watson wrote in the probable cause statement. He had dug a pit for the fire with his backhoe and notified authorities that he would be burning at about 7 a.m. that day, McCoy reportedly said.

McCoy was going to have the full dumpster removed the following day but said he wanted to save money and burn as much of the house as he could, according to Watson’s account.

“McCoy informed me that he had bulldozed a mobile home at 1017 Brazos [Trail] and had burned it several years prior,” Watson wrote. “The fire marshal responded and issued a citation for burning illegal materials, which he was later convicted of.”

McCoy also stated that he intended to burn the rest of the materials in the pile the next day and bury the remnants in the pit, according to the affidavit.

After walking the scene and naming some of the items, according to Watson, McCoy was arrested for violation of the Clean Air Act and posted bond Tuesday.

Fire Marshal Shawn Scott said McCoy could face additional charges because he stated that he intended to cover up what was left.

“This was a neighborhood setting,” Scott said, adding that others were exposed to the smoke and dangers from the fire.

McCoy denies he knowingly burned illegal materials and said he was just trying to clean up the neighborhood.

“I’m sick about it,” McCoy told the Democrat Tuesday. “I’ve done nothing but bust my butt here at Horseshoe Bend.”

He’s removed three other mobile homes and built three nice homes in their stead, including a $250,000 log cabin, McCoy said.

The trailer house would have cost about $4,000 or $5,000 to remove, he said.

Though the fire marshal said he was burning illegal materials, McCoy said he wasn’t aware that his burn was illegal, saying he notified the fire department that morning about his burn.

“I don’t know what kind of pollution act or whatever they are talking about is,” McCoy said.

McCoy said he paid for a dumpster to remove the trash and was only burning the wood.

“I burned wood,” McCoy said. “You can ask my neighbors.”

He did put some of the metal from the structure to burn the wood off it in the fire and said copper wiring may have been attached to some of the wood in the fire but denied he placed materials such as roofing materials or insulation in the fire.

McCoy did admit to getting in trouble with the law over another attempt to clear out an unwanted mobile home years ago.

“I was guilty as sin but I didn’t have an education,” McCoy said.

He couldn’t afford to have another mobile home removed from his land and so he just set it on fire, McCoy said, adding that it looked like the Empire State Building was burning.

The fire marshal at the time wrote him a ticket but, because he didn’t know not to do it, he didn’t have to pay the fine, McCoy said.

“I’m out here trying to improve Horseshoe Bend,” McCoy said. “I’ve got a 4-year old and a 2-year-old. All I want to do is build them a future.”

An arrest for burning illegal materials is new in Parker County.

Scott said the law changed during the last legislative session making burning of the highly toxic materials a class A misdemeanor offense.

The fire marshal’s office often responds to similar burn violation calls and most people have been cooperative, claiming they didn’t know it was illegal, Scott said.

For about the last year and a half their office has been trying to give the benefit of the doubt to people about the new law, handing out information and  educating the community as best they can, Scott said. However, they’ve begun to step up enforcement of the law and violators could face similar charges.

Residents can still burn leaves, limbs and brush from their own property during the day, but if it creates black smoke, it’s probably illegal to burn, Scott said. People not within 300 feet of another residence can also burn household garbage but are supposed to remove plastic, cans, household appliances and other items.

They are focusing on burns of materials such as copper wire insulation, asphalt shingles, tires, insulation and treated lumber and will make arrests for burning those items, Scott said.

Burning brush after hours remains a class C misdemeanor, according to Scott.

More information on burning laws and regulations can be found at www.parkercountyemergencymanagement.com.

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