Department investigated following barn blaze

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By Lorrie Kinkade


The Trimble Banner

A fire department training exercise has led to an investigation by the state department of environmental protection.

Milton Fire Department is under investigation following a training exercise Nov. 21 that included setting fire to two barns on Liberty Road in Milton. The barns, which according to Fire Chief Ronnie Barnes contained only tobacco, were destroyed in the windstorm that struck the county last September.

Ronnie McCane, director of Trimble County Emergency Management, said he reported to the scene of the fire after receiving complaints of illegal burning. He said at that time, only one barn had been ignited and he instructed Barnes to extinguish the blaze.

A short time later, he received additional complaints of the second barn burning, which resulted in a report to the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection.

“According to the law, barns must be torn down and hauled to the landfill. They cannot be burned. So, according to the law, the fire should have been put out,” McCane said. “I had no choice but to turn this over to the state. I’m sworn to do my job.”

Barnes said his department has burned barns in past training exercises and was unaware the law no longer allowed it. He said he was under the impression that the structures could be set ablaze if certified fire department personnel were on the scene.

“We removed tires, motor oil, all kinds of stuff from the barns. The only thing we left was the tobacco. We didn’t know we weren’t allowed to burn barns anymore. But like I told [the DEP investigator], ignorance of the law is no excuse,” Barnes said.

He said the investigator recommended if the department desires to burn a barn in the future, he contact Judge-executive Randy Stevens who may request a special permit from the DEP.

DEP employee Elizabeth Robb Schmitz said the investigator visited the location within five days of the fire, however has not completed a report on the incident, which, by mandate, must be finished within 20 days.

Schmitz said a determination of whether or not the department will face fines would be made within 30 days.