The property owner, Denzil Poling, was operating a state-approved experimental farm in which plants were being grown inside planters made from several hundred truck tires, Bassett said.
When the fire broke out about noon, Poling was heating water to put into the soil, Bassett said. The heat from the fire was affected by the 30 mph to 40 mph winds and some brush caught fire and then some of the tires began to burn, he said.
The county had to use special equipment, including aircraft-fire foam, to put out the blaze, which posed an environmental and human health threat, he said.
Poling's insurance policy did not cover the firefighting expenses so the county was stuck with the bill, Ridenour said.
If the EPA had not reimbursed the county, it might have considered suing Poling, Bassett said.
Poling did not return phone calls Monday.
In October 1997 the county made a temporary $25,000 loan to the Maugansville Fire Co. to pay for its fire-related expenses, Bassett said.
In November 1997 the county asked the EPA for a reimbursement of about $25,000, the maximum amount. It received a promise of a $24,222 reimbursement last Wednesday.
When the money is received within 60 days it will go to the county's operational contingency fund, County Administrator Rodney Shoop said.
One reason it took so long to get a response was that a private firm the EPA uses to handle the applications was replaced six months after the county filed its application, Bassett said.
- Scott Butki