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Neighbor hot over tire fire

March 12, 1997

By TERRY TALBERT

Staff Writer

When the tires in Denzil Poling's Cearfoss yard caught fire on Tuesday, his neighbor's worst nightmares came true.

Melvin W. Sours, whose yard backs up to Poling's property, stood in the wooded area behind his home as firefighters battled the stubborn blaze across the way.

For Sours, the fire had literally hit close to home. He was angry.

"I told the county this was going to happen," he said, shaking his head.

"It scared me," said his wife, Rosa Sours, of her reaction when she saw the flames.

"When we first saw it, the flames were as high as the highest tree back there," she said as she pointed to the back of her property line.

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The Sours said an ominous rumbling sound accompanied the flames and dense black smoke that veered toward their property briefly before heading in another direction.

They feared the wind would turn back, carrying the fire to them.

Sours said he was angry because he warned county officials at a hearing last year that if Poling was allowed to keep piling tires on his property, there would be another tire fire like the one that burned in Inwood, W.Va., in September 1993.

Poling, an inventor, has been growing vegetables since 1992 in a waist-high stacked-tire gardening system. At that time, Poling said he saw the columns of tires that he filled with dirt as a way to recycle scrap tires that often end up as roadside eyesores.

Sours said Poling last year took around a petition asking residents to support his request for more tires. "I refused to sign it," Sours said.

At a subsequent hearing in the county office building, Sours said he was the only person who protested Poling's plans.

"I told them there were rats and snakes over there, and piles and piles of tires, and I was afraid of water pollution," he said. "This land is shale, and shale is layered. I was afraid my well water would be affected."

Poling said he asked county officials to look at the area before making a decision on whether to allow more tires on Poling's land.

To his knowledge, no one took him up on the offer, he said.

Sours said Poling took to the hearing peppers he had grown in tires.

"They were the prettiest peppers you'd ever want to look at," Sours said. "Maybe that's what convinced the commissioners, I don't know. They were real pretty peppers."

Sours said he felt sorry for firefighters, who had to haul line from tankers and a small swimming pool they set up, to battle the tire fire. "You should have seen `em," he said. "There was black stuff over everything, their faces, their clothes, their hair. They were trying to hose it off with water."

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