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Kilgore Fire Department to start inspecting oil sites

By Richard Yeakley
June 10, 2015 at 4 a.m.

KILGORE — Responding to an increase in complaints about unmaintained oil sites, the Kilgore City Council on Tuesday approved a plan for the Kilgore Fire Department to begin proactive inspections.

"We have recent citizen complaints," Assistant Fire Chief Mike Simmons said, while pitching the proposal. "With a proactive approach, you get a lot more compliance. It is a lot better program, and you have the interaction there on a regular basis with these individuals instead of waiting until something gets to the point where it is a complete eyesore and a dangerous situation."

Neither Simmons nor Fire Marshal Brandon Bigos were comfortable saying what percentage of the city's roughly 250 oil well sites are not up to code.

"Driving around, just visually, there are quite a few," Simmons said.

The department previously responded to wells that they noticed were noncompliant or ones about which residents complained.

The city has regulated the sites since the 1930s or 1940s, and the most recent update to the code came in 2014, Simmons said.

Under the new plan, which Bigos will lead, the city's wells will be inspected.

"I really think that ... if we just talk them, I think we will get a lot of compliance out of them. They don't want to be destructive. Sometimes it's not intentional; it is just an old site," Simmons said. "I think it is going to be a successful program."

If they are found in violation, a letter will be issued, and the owner will have 30 days to address the issue.

If nothing is done during the first 30-day period, a second letter will be issued and another 30-day period will commence.

After 60 days of notified noncompliance, the department will issue a citation. That citation could reach as much as $2,000 depending on the severity of lack of compliance.

"I am really excited, because this is something that I am really interested in. This is our history, and above all the other cities, we need to be shining more than anyone else," Councilwoman Merlyn Holmes said. "I appreciate you guys going to this effort."

Councilman Harvey McClendon said the city has talked about this in years past but didn't know where it would find the manpower to do the inspections.

"A big emphasis in the future of the fire service is inspections. We get ISO credit for doing inspections, and the more inspections we do, the more credit we get," Simmons said. "It's a big emphasis over the next 10 years in the fire service, because there are a lot of aging structures and facilities out there that haven't been inspected on a regular basis. We are trained and certified to do this for a living, so it just makes sense for us to step in and assist in this area, because it is really what we are trained to do — mitigate hazards in our city."

City Manager Josh Selleck said one of the first objectives of the program will be to locate and assess each site in the city.

Simmons said that while Bigos would lead the program, the fire department would work together to handle the inspections.

The city's codes for oil wells contain some provisions for the sites.

Those provisions include: fencing around the sites 7 feet tall, with three stands of barbed wire that is kept locked and maintained; identification signage with local emergency contact numbers, the well operator, lease name and identifying buried flow lines; and landscaping that is clean and sanitary, free from litter and clear of weeds and grass more than a foot high.

The council also approved the annexation of 0.62 acres of land at 572 E. Baughman Road. The land had been excluded from a previous annexation due to a development agreement but was brought into the city because a home was being constructed on the land.



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