Questions Linger Over Who Authorized Petrolia Fires

Questions remain over who, exactly, authorized the August 10th burning of four privately-owned structures in Petrolia. The fires were organized by the group Petrolia Curb Appeal. They enlisted the help of the Petrolia Fire Department to carry out the burn.

Members of the group said they are simply trying to clean up Petrolia. They cite City Ordinance 102 to justify their actions. But, that ordinance has nothing to do with removing entire structures. It deals only with rubbish and overgrowth on properties.

The ordinance also requires the city to notify property owners, by certified letter, of infractions. It also gives the owners 10 days to take care of the problem before the city takes action. Fred Waggner, who owns one of the burnt properties, said he never received a letter from the city. And, a letter from Petrolia Curb Appeal to Waggner, notifying him of the burn, is dated only five days before the fires.

Jan Lott and Jena Fleming with "Petrolia Curb Appeal" said it was the city and the Petrolia Fire Department who authorized the fires. But, Mayor Cindy Armour said the city has nothing to do with the group's actions. Fire Chief Buddy Alexander said he believed Lott when she told him all legal issues and paperwork were in order.

Minutes of the August 10th City Council meeting indicate city officials knew about the group's plans ahead of time. Petrolia Curb Appeal member Brandi Watson announced the group's plans to conduct the burn, with the help of the Petrolia VFD, August 14th.

District Attorney Jack McGaughey said if the fires were set without property owner's permission and without the city directly authorizing them, they could fall under arson statutes.

Tim Barnosky, Newschannel 6.