Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

May 14, 2013

Princeton building’s residents claiming vines are fire hazard

By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — Residents of a building on East Main Street are claiming the vines that once housed a large roost of starlings are now creating a fire hazard.

Bill Buzzo, code enforcement director for the city of Princeton, said residents of 1422 East Main St. had originally approached the city with concerns that the large number of starlings roosting in the vines attached to the building was creating a public safety hazard.

Buzzo said the starlings have since flown the coop, but other concerns have risen regarding the vines the starlings were once roosting in.

“The birds are gone for now, but the fire department had an issue with the vines being a fire hazard,” he said. “Even though the flocks have left this is an issue. Some cutting of the vines had been done around electrical meters in the back. However, the vines are still there.”

Princeton Fire Chief Chad Bailey said residents approached the city and the fire department, citing the vines as a possible public safety hazard.

“Several months ago they were talking about the birds in the vines creating a safety hazard at the board meetings,” Bailey said. “Then some residents came to us about the vines blocking their windows. There are several residents living in the apartments above the business on the first floor. The vines have grown over the windows and are blocking exits.”

Bailey said investigators with the fire department determined the vines could inhibit the ability of firefighters to rescue residents from the building and allow a fire to travel through the building at a faster rate.

“We don’t know if we could get people out if there was a fire because of those vines,” he said. “If we had to remove the vines, it could reduce the amount of time we have to rescue someone from the building. If there was a fire on the first floor it could come out a window and then it will dry out those vines. The fire could then travel up the walls. This is a public safety issue as far as rescue and then how it would reduce the time a fire would need to climb up from the first floor to the second and the third.”

Bailey said the building owners have been given time to remove the vines on their own.

“We have since ordered the owner to remove the vines,” Bailey said. “We haven’t heard anything from the owners but they have been given 30 days to handle the problem on their own.”

Messages left with the owners of the East Main Street property were not returned as of Monday evening.

— Contact Kate Coil at kcoil@bdtonline.com