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Official says salt can make fire scenes safer

January 08, 2002

Official says salt can make fire scenes safer



By SCOTT BUTKI
scottb@herald-mail.com


Washington County should consider, on a case-by-case basis, salting properties on which winter fires are blazing to prevent icy conditions that could result in injuries to emergency personnel, Washington County Emergency Services Director Joe Kroboth said Monday.

Unlike the city of Hagerstown, Washington County does not salt private properties while firefighters are battling fires.

The county doesn't spread salt on private property because of liability concerns related to the possibility salt could damage fire equipment or the homeowner's property, Washington County Highway Department Director Ted Wolford said.

The Highway Department does salt public roads near fires when it's needed, Wolford said.

Kroboth said he wants to meet with Wolford to talk about whether the county should reconsider its position on the salting matter.

Kroboth said he understands liability concerns, as well as the argument that public money shouldn't be spent on private property. But he said the safety of emergency personnel also must be considered.

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Kroboth said that icing problems can arise during the winter months as firefighters spray water that, without salt, can turn to ice.

"Our activity creates a hazardous situation," Kroboth said.

Firefighters face the risk of slipping and falling on the ice, which also can create hazards for the public, he said.

Hagerstown Fire Chief Gary Hawbaker said that when the city fire department fights fires in the winter the Hagerstown Public Parks Department is called to spread salt.

Public Works personnel salt private properties at fires only when the fire department requests they do so, Director Eric Deike said. The department occasionally will spread salt on private properties outside the city limits when firefighters make the request, he said.

For instance, Public Works Department workers spread salt on Funkstown's Assistant Mayor Paul Crampton Jr.'s property Friday as firefighters battled the blaze at his home, Deike said.

Deike said it doesn't matter to him if the property is in the city or not, if his department can help save a property or a life, it will do so.

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