Ridgeway Attorney calls for burn ban

Ridgeway attorney Robert Hartman proposed to Council last week that it adopt a ‘burn’ ordinance. The first part of Hartman’s ordinance would prohibit any burning in the downtown area of Ridgeway. The second part would restrict burning anywhere in the town within 350 feet of homes unless permission to burn had been granted from the non-burning parties, with the exception of cooking fires, and cooking during Pig on the Ridge.

Hartman said he became concerned about the lack of a burning prohibition last week when a neighbor proceeded with a rubbish burn within 20 feet of his office, despite winds that he said were over 20 miles per hour.

“My neighbor who was doing the burning told me, ‘I burn every day, and I ain’t going to stop.’ And I’m like, ok…well, what can I do about it? I can’t do anything about it, but ya’ll can do something about it. All I can do about it is sue my neighbor when my house burns down,” Hartman said.

“Normally, the Forest Commission requires residents who are going to burn to attain a burn permit, but that does not apply to municipalities like Ridgeway,” Hartman said.

Winnsboro has banned burning within the town, and in Richland County yard burns are only permitted if the resident lives in a rural zoning district, and is at least 75 feet from any structure, road or property line.

Hartman said he is concerned about the age of the buildings in downtown Ridgeway, some of which date back to the 1800s, and particularly the heart pine material used in the construction of many of the buildings.

“That stuff is like gasoline. It doesn’t take much of an ignition to set it off,” Hartman said. “We have such a high density of buildings in the downtown area and all it takes is an ember to catch and that thing will burn so fast and so quick there’s no putting it out. Literally, those houses can burn within minutes. San Francisco burned to the ground. Chicago burned to the ground. Columbia has burned to the ground several times. It can happen.”

In other Council business, Belva Bush was named as a replacement for Croom Hunter, on the Planning and Zoning Commission. Hunter’s seat became vacant after he recently moved from Ridgeway. Bush, a former Town Councilwoman, was serving as a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals. Council will now have to appointment for someone to fill her seat.

According to Mayor Charlene Herring, the Town of Ridgeway is waiting to receive a resolution from the Fairfield County School Board that will grant the land behind Geiger Elementary School to the Town for the new water tower. “The water tower, we’re working on our agreements with our lawyer. Thats in progress, and we’ll just wait to hear when it’s time to sign,” Herring said. “I think the school board is the one that will have to do a resolution at their board meeting this month about the land being given to town of Ridgeway.”

Herring also related that, for the first time, Fairfield County will be allocating funds for the budget year to the Town of Ridgeway for use at the Town’s discretion. The sum of those funds is yet to be determined.

“We know that Fairfield County will be allocating some money to our town to help us as we move forward and thats another first too,” Herring said. “You know, in the past, they afforded grants for water hookups and fire hydrants but this year they are giving us a sum of money to use on whatever. We don’t know exactly what that sum is yet.”

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