School Closings And Delays

Man Tells Fire Crews He Had Permission To Burn Home

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STERLING TOWNSHIP -- Fire crews responded to a house fire in Wayne County early Friday morning and came face to face with the property owner who admits to starting it, but says he had permission to do so.

Charles Gifford called the 911 center in Wayne County twice to let officials know he would be conducting a controlled burn.  But when a structure fire was reported in that same area, fire crews were sent to check it out and the controlled burn controversy began.

Firefighters doused what’s left of this house in Sterling Township, a fire the property owner admits to setting himself.

Fire Chief Pete Mulcahy says his crews were called out for this house fire, but when they arrived the owner said he had the permits to burn it.

"They obtained a demolition permit, but as far as I know, that does not allow you to burn a building in place in the state of Pennsylvania anymore.  So there's definitely issues,” said Greene-Dreher Volunteer Fire Association Chief Pete Mulcahy.

Charles Gifford owns the property and says he wanted to clear an old home and build new.

"There's a lot of trespassing," said Gifford. "I had equipment in a trailer that got stolen.  It's a hazard."

That’s where things get dicey.  Gifford obtained a permit from Sterling Township to demolish the home.  Supervisors say they gave them the OK to burn it down.

"We had them call 911, with a controlled burn which they did, and we issued the permit because everything was secure, it was only old wood. That's all that was there,” said Sterling Township Supervisor Melvin Wheeler.

DEP now says this burn was illegal, only the state can give permission for a burn like this, frustrating Gifford and his family who thought they went by the books.

"You make every attempt you could to get it done right, you make the calls, what's next?  I got approvals from everybody. I can't do anything more,” said Gifford.

"You try to go through all the channels, do everything right, and this is what happens,” said the property owner’s father Chuck Gifford.

Township officials didn’t believe this burn would turn into a heated issue.

"We wouldn't have issued the permit if we thought we were in the wrong,” said Wheeler.

Now DEP is sifting through what’s left, trying to determine exactly who’s to blame.

DEP officials say the property owner will likely receive a notice of violation and be fined for this fire. Right now, they’re not sure if the township will face any consequences as well.


  • Elephant

    Hey, people, you get what you vote for. If you want the government looking over your shoulder every time you make a move, keep on voting for the liberal progressives. Remember, it takes four working people’s taxes to pay for one government employee. Every worker who’s wages are paid from tax dollars is a government employee, and the taxes they pay do not count because the source was from the tax dollars of an actual productive worker.

  • William DeFazio

    Some of the bull involved with the silliest and dumbest simple things in this state and others is just ridiculous! Had he taken it ap0art board by board and burned it that would be ok right? What is the difference if he does it in one huge bon fire? I hope if this goes to court in any way the judge uses discretion and drops this ridiculousness!

  • Glenn Quier

    Why would anyone call the DEP. I don’t call the DEP when I want a building permit. The property owner did everything right and should not get fined by the DEP. DEP should go after the township for their ingornance of the laws. If the property owner recieves a fine if I were him I would sue the township to recoup my expenses.

    • glm

      And then the fire department can recoup there expenses. How can anyone defend this guys stupidity is beyond me. Really starting an intentional house fire without the presence of a fire department. Think about it people.

  • glm

    The owner obviously didn’t do everything right or he would have checked with DEP. Any how stupid can you be really! contained fire without the presence of a fire department. Seriously. That could have smoldered for days would the owner still have someone there watching? And I’m sure when he notified 911 they assumed he would’nt have ben so stupid as to start the fire on his own without the fire department present.

    • Rocco

      Big deal losers get a life!!! who cares…….its his property. If everyone minded there own business it would go off without a hitch!! vandalism and trespassers should be mad now they have no place to hang out!!!

  • Mike Smith

    How can the property owner be fined when he called the com center and told them he was doing a controlled burn, and obtained a permit by the township, maybe he should of called President Obama to get the final OK! It’s seems the owner did everything right. “SHAME” if he gets burnt

  • paul

    the fire crew lost there chance for a practice fire and now every one will blame each other . just like our government the home owner did every thing right if he get fined he will sue the town so who wins NO ONE!

  • Linda L

    He tried to do everything the legal way and this is what happens. Maybe he should have hired someone to torch it. He got rid of the eye sore to make it better then get’s a fine. Hope they do not make him pay a fine.

    • Jim Brony

      Two chances that will happen – slim and none. They will probably throw him under the bus. Hope he tells them all to pound sand.

  • Shannon

    I personally think NO ONE should ever issue a permit to burn a house down because of problems like this, i mean come on people what’s to say the fire spreads to a neighboring house or worse the owner not knowing someone can be hiding in it,,, SHAME ON THE TOWNSHIP FOR THEIR STUPIDY

    • Raul Pevere (@RaulPevere)

      And who knows? All that snow surrounding it might be flammable. What if the flame attracted aliens, and they came down from outer space and wiped us all out. What if this? What if that? What if everything went just as planned?

      • Jim Brony

        Hey, it could happen. All that fake plastic snow you see on the internet might have gotten mixed up with the real stuff. Hard to believe that local and state government don’t know what they are doing, I’ve put so much faith in them over the years. I wish they would take over banking and health care, I would feel so much better.

    • slyreaper

      You dont even know where this is do you…. that dirt road means there’s no house right next door.

  • ryry

    He has a permit, and paid for it.
    The chief is just pissed they didn’t start the fire, if it was one of their fire bugs it wouldn’t be a problem.

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