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Burn investigated

January 29, 2001

Burn investigated



By SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer


The Washington County Health Department issued three citations in two days to a Smithsburg man who was burning down part of a Chewsville mill without a permit, Rod MacRae, director of Environmental Health for the Washington County Health Department, said Friday.

The fire on property at 21120 Twin Springs Drive, began Wednesday, continued Thursday, and was still smoking Friday. The property is near the Chewsville Post Office.

An investigation into the fire was ongoing, MacRae said. For that reason he said he did not want to go into specifics on the citations, adding that information would be referred to the Maryland Department of the Environment's legal division. It will be up to the Department of the Environment to decide whether to pursue the case, he said.

MacRae said, however, that three citations were issued against Troy Jernigan, who runs Jernigan's Landscaping Inc. of Smithsburg.

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The Health Department got involved because it was responding to citizen complaints, he said.

Hagerstown lawyer Roger Schlossberg spoke on behalf of Jernigan.

Jernigan has been burning part of the Chewsville Cooperative Association's mill, Schlossberg said.

Schlossberg was appointed receiver of the association property by Washington County Circuit Court in July 1997. Later that year he sold some of the property to Jernigan at a public auction.

The Chewsville Cooperative Association was formed about 60 years ago by farmers in the Smithsburg-Chewsville area, Schlossberg said.

Schlossberg said the burn was done with the knowledge, consent and cooperation of the Smithsburg Volunteer Fire Co. The company also gave advice on when the fire should be lighted, he said.

Smithsburg Chief Ron Jeter disputed that assertion.

It is not up to the fire department to give property owners permission to build a fire, Jeter said. The company never encouraged Jernigan to build a fire or indicated it was acceptable for them to do so, he said.

Even if the fire company had agreed, it would still be the obligation of the resident to get a permit, MacRae said.

Jernigan chose to start the fire on a day without wind, as well as while there was snow on the ground, reducing the risk of the fire spreading, Schlossberg said.

He said he wouldn't acknowledge any wrongdoing.

But he added, "If there has been an error, certainly that is regrettable and we'll have to address it," Schlossberg said.

Prior to the fire, Jernigan had removed from the mill every item with possible hazardous contents, Schlossberg said.

While neighbors were informed, and some were pleased with the idea, at least one complained to the Health Department, he said.

But a man working in an adjacent property, Tri-State Upholstery and Interiors, said he was glad Jernigan had burned down part of the property.

Tom Nicoletti owns Tri-State Upholstery but his landlord is Jernigan.

He said the mill has been down for at least six months. Local residents are pleased that pieces of the mill are now being burned.

"It was an eyesore. I am glad to see it down," Nicoletti said, while looking out his window at the smoking remnants on the property.

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