MURRAY — Ever since the City of Murray announced last week that it would be offering a special brush pickup period following severe storms that struck the city, a strong concern has been expressed by Mayor Bob Rogers.
During Thursday’s meeting of the Murray City Council, Rogers brought that concern to the public once again. This brush pickup is happening at a potentially volatile time — the Fourth of July and days surrounding it.
“I want to once again advise all of our citizens to be very careful when using fireworks this year, especially with these brush piles that are going to be sitting out along our city streets. That could be creating quite a fire hazard and we don’t need any problems coming from that,” Rogers said at City Hall.
The special pickup, coming as part of a state of emergency that Rogers declared last Monday, June 24, is being put in place to give residents the chance to get rid of tree pieces that came down in their yards during a series of severe thunderstorms that moved through that previous weekend. The worst of the damage was inflicted on the evening of June 21 as both the city and Calloway County suffered from high winds that sent several trees crashing to the ground, sometimes into houses.
City Street and Solid Waste Manager Ron Allbritten said that because of the wide area that damaged was reported, it was decided that a full-city pickup was the best way to handle it. That now means that, perhaps in some cases, some piles will be sitting along streets for as many as five weeks, provided residents are preparing well in advance, as Allbritten has suggested.
That means officials like City of Murray Fire Chief Eric Pologruto will be keeping an extra close watch for the next few weeks.
“Any time you combine potentially combustible materials with an ignition source like fireworks, or sparks that could fly around, you’re going to have at least some risk involved,” Pologruto said, adding that current weather conditions may help the situation. “Right now, all of that brush in those piles isn’t really too likely to burn because it’s been so wet around here, and we’re thankful for that at this stage.
“Now, if this were (2012) when we had daytime temperatures of 106 degrees and it was so dry that it actually felt cooler than that, I’d be pretty concerned.”
Pologruto is referring to a massive drought that was in place over western Kentucky in the summer of 2012 that caused Murray and Calloway officials to issue burn bans at the time the Fourth of July arrived. The annual Freedom Fest fireworks show did continue as scheduled, but it was under the watch of both Murray Fire Department units, as well as units from Calloway County Fire-Rescue, as both were put on standby at the Bee Creek soccer complex.
In addition, Rogers wished to remind residents that fireworks are not to be ignited within 200 feet of any buildings, vehicles or people in the city limits, as specified by a city ordinance. City Administrator Jim Osborne followed that by saying that there are very few places in the city where that would be able to happen.
In addition, the ordinance also requires fireworks lit on the ground, such as a fountain, to be at least 50 feet away from buildings, vehicles or people.