Two separate dumpster fires were started in Jamestown Apartments on Friday night, one doing damage to a dumpster that was already burned in a earlier fire, while another ravaged landscaping and surrounding trees.
The first fire occurred at 8:20 p.m. and was extinguished within 10 minutes of ignition by the Mount Pleasant Fire Department. The dumpster had been the site of a fire in late April, when Mount Pleasant police and fire officials were battling a rash of furniture and trash blazes around the city. New damage to the dumpster included singed paint and deformities to the structure. The plastic doors to the receptacle were melted down into pieces scattered in the parking lot.
Inside the first dumpster were the charred remains of an old mattress. No damage to buildings or landscaping were reported from the first fire.
However, a second, separate fire was started 10:00 p.m. in another dumpster on the opposite side of the complex. The second blaze grew so tall that the flames from the fire reached the tops of close-by trees. A bright orange glow could be seen down Broomfield Road as far away as the small strip mall that houses businesses such as Cottage Inn Pizza and others.
By 10:14 p.m., the fire was extinguished by Mount Pleasant firefighters. Sgt. Gerard Vogel was on the scene fighting the blaze.
Vogel said it was discouraging having to put out two fires set in the same complex in the same night, but was wary to call the recent heightened frequency of city-wide malicious destruction of property cases a “trend.”
“Is there a trend? Well, yes and no,” Vogel said. “Certainly there’s more, but if you look at the last couple of years, the number of these cases goes up and down. The previous year, the main trend was found to be during the true school year.”
Despite his reluctance to call these fires a trend, Vogel did acknowledge that the number of the cases was concerning.
“Unless we can catch someone (at the scene), there’s no way we can have any evidence to pursue,” he said. “We’ll just have to continue what we’re doing, which is to come put them out.”
In April, the Mount Pleasant City Commission passed an emergency ordinance that allows law enforcement to arrest any individual within 300 feet of a fire if they are not actively putting it out. Since the ordinance was enacted, fires continue to be a challenge for local law enforcement and fire officials.
Jamestown Apartments, which is a part of Union Township, is not within the enforcement zone of the 300 foot rule.
Regardless, fires keep happening, and the concern is getting stronger – so much so that the City Commission has passed another enforcement agreement with the Central Michigan University Police Department allowing them to enforce the fire ordinance and others on campus.
Vogel said that he and other officials believe the ordinance is and will continue to be effective.
“What’ll happen is that as soon as we start catching more people (with the use of the guidelines of the ordinance), it will make it more effective,” he said. “Once people realize they can and will be caught, they’ll stop.
“If it keeps happening, then we’ll try and move on to (another ordinance to enforce the law). The partnership we have with the court and CMU is strong. The court is being very helpful to us so we can enforce this.”