Tire wall fire prompts El Paso County to consider rescinding waiver

A tire fire burns on private property days after the end of the Carson Midway fire. Crews in protective masks and gear from the El Paso County Public Works and the EPA work to remove the smoldering tires on Wednesday, March 21, 2018. The tires were being used as a wall or boundary on the private property. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

Residents of unincorporated El Paso County can forget those plans to build fences or walls out of old tires.

Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to nix an option to apply for a “beneficial use agreement,” which gave property owners a year to build an approved structure, such as a fence or wall, from tires littering their land.

A fence made of hundreds of tires caught fire March 16 during the 3,300-acre Carson Midway blaze in the southern part of the county, prompting commissioners in April to recommend a change to the land-use code, eliminating permission for tire structures.

The county needed EPA’s help to put out the “tire fire,” which released chemical-laden smoke and sparked fears waste tires on other properties also would create health hazards if they catch fire.

County staff told commissioners Tuesday that rural landowners continue to illegally store large quantities of old tires on their land. Only a complaint can trigger code enforcement actions, and cleanups can be costly if the landowner can’t foot the bill, said Craig Dossey, executive director of the county Planning and Community Development Department.

Commissioner Stan VanderWerf said he wants to discuss with staff how to identify tire-loaded properties and get them cleaned up without a complaint to kick off code enforcement.

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