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Residents aim to put out fires

The Kirks said the recent burning of a school bus was the straw that broke the camel's back. The winds that night blew the smoke toward homes.

"It was a nice balmy evening," Carl Kirk said. "We had the windows open, and they put a bus on fire, about a 50 passenger school bus...the fumes and the smoke from it happened to come into this end of the community."

When a fire department trains on a car fire, paper and wood are used to start a burn inside the vehicle. The gas tank is either removed or drained and filled with water.

"What gives off most of the toxic gases is the plastic, and the vinyls and the upholstery," said Kerr.

Kerr said firefighters combating the blaze wear full protective equipment, including a self contained breathing apparatus. Other personnel standing perhaps 30 to 40 feet away do not wear respirators.

"We never considered it to be enough of a hazard that far away that it would be an issue," Kerr said. He said the nearest house to the burn site would be 100 to 150 yards away, and added that in most instances the prevailing winds carry smoke away from residences and towards the ravine to the east.

Kerr said the fire departments have made procedural changes over the facility's 40 years of operation, eschewing the burning of gasoline, furniture, hay and tires. Now, for simulated vehicle or structure fires, they use wood and paper to start blazes.

The Kirks outlined their complaints at a recent Town Board meeting. Though town leaders said they'd be speaking to the fire departments about the issue, it looks like the limit of the town's role would be as mediator.

"There may be some real limits to what the jurisdiction of the town is in this matter," Supervisor Sam Messina said.

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