Thursday, January 11, 2007

"Fight over Compost Fire Costs Going to Court"

I knew this was coming: the state of Texas is sending a bill to the owner of the mulch pile in Helotes that has been burning since Christmas.


The state sent a letter to the property owner, Henry Zumwalt, saying it is up to him to pay for the clean up costs, Zumwalt’s attorney said. Zumwalt has filed a lawsuit claiming he is not responsible for the bill, News 4 WOAI learned.

The latest estimates show the fire will be out by the end of the month at a cost of $1.75 million dollars.

“This was not Mr. Zumwalt's fault,” Zumwalt’s attorney Michael Black said. “He's been a good guy in trying to protect the citizens and property in Helotes in trying to put this thing out.”

Zumwalt’s attorney said his client has already paid up to $150,000 to fight the fire. His lawyer claims Zumwalt is not responsible for that bill as well.

“This is a compost fire that was started by arson.” Black said. “Mr. Zumwalt is as much of a vicitm as anybody else.”

I feel for Zumwalt somewhat. If this was indeed arson, then I think he's getting a raw deal from the state. After all, the San Antonio Fire Department doesn't seem to charge for putting out house fires, no matter how they start. And, it seems like Zumwalt was doing all he could to fight the blaze himself. I'm not sure the state of Texas should be charging him for an emergency response.

What do you think?


AlanDP said...

I don't see how he can be at fault when the state agency that does these things has been approving the pile for fifteen years. As far as he knew, he was following the law and everything was okay.

But have they really proven that it was arson? Because piles like that can spontaneously combust due to heat from fermentation deep inside.

Even a bale of hay can do this. Something the size of that pile would have a lot more fermentation fuel to create a fire.

Albatross said...

I'm not sure about the arson -- that's what the owner suspects at this point. However, I think I agree with you on the first point. He has been getting state approval all this time for the pile of mulch, and nothing seems to suggest he was skirtin any rules. If anything, the state of Texas should shoulder the burden of putting out this fire.