Some residents in Petrolia are furious over the actions of a citizens group and the Petrolia Fire Department. Several structures were burned last month as part of an effort to clean up town. But, questions linger about who had the authority to approve the burns.
The fires were the work of community-action group Petrolia Curb Appeal. Members Jan Lott and Jena Fleming say the group is just trying to help the city and property owners get properties in line with code. They say City Ordinance 102 gives the city the authority to remove nuisance structures 10 days after owners are notified.
Fred Waggner says he lost a lifetime of belongings in the fire. His storage shed was among the structures burned. "How do you put a value on something you had when you was a teenager," he said.
Waggner received a letter from Petrolia Curb Appeal warning him of the intended burn. That letter was dated Aug. 10, the same day Curb Appeal went before Petrolia City Council to announce their intentions. The fires were set four days later.
Waggner was never given 10 days notice, and, he said, never received a letter from the city. Waggner said the last time anyone with the city contacted him about the property was four years ago.
Mayor Cindy Armour said the city has nothing to do with the group. And, she said the city never authorized them to use city equipment or city staff. Armour said the city offered to let them use city volunteers, if they were working on their free time.
Armour wouldn't comment, however, on if the group has the authority to approve the burns.
Fire Chief Buddy Alexander said he believed the group was acting under the city's authority. He also said the letters Curb Appeal sent out, were the only documents he saw before allowing his department to burn the structures.
Some residents in town are calling the group vigilantes. Others said they support the effort to clean up town.