Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical calls to 1146 Haskell Ave. since 2004.
June 2004 — Vehicle fire, 25 feet from a building
Jan. 25, 2006 — Car fire in the back lot
Oct. 27, 2006 — Car fire in the back lot
Jan. 4, 2007 — Three cars on fire in salvage yard
May 26, 2007 — Salvaged junk vehicle on fire
Jan. 2, 2009 — Rubbish fire. Pile of trash in recycle area caught on fire
Jan. 27, 2010 — Fire involving six vehicles
The heavy equipment shakes their houses.
Trash constantly blows through their front yards, and noise echoes through the nearby salvage yard where seven fires have erupted since June 2004.
Now some residents of the Brook Creek neighborhood in east Lawrence, which is adjacent to the 12th and Haskell Recycling Center, 1146 Haskell Ave., are saying enough is enough.
“It’s an incredible nuisance to our neighborhood,” said Byron Wiley, who lives in the 1200 block of Almira, directly across the street from the salvage yard. “It’s concerning. This is located right next to a neighborhood. ... This should not be here.”
Wiley’s second-story window looks out over piles of scrap metal, bins of aluminum cans and other materials waiting to be recycled. Residents said it’s not unusual for those piles to be stacked at least 20 feet high, looming over the fence that surrounds the business.
While that may be unsightly, it’s the threat of repeated car fires that has the neighbors along Almira street most concerned.
“They must not be doing what they should be doing to prevent this safety hazard from happening,” said Brook Creek resident Andrea Repinsky, 32. “It’s definitely not a safe situation.”
Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical Chief Mark Bradford said the fire department had been called to the recycling center seven times since 2004, six times to extinguish cars that had caught on fire in the salvage yard. The seventh report was for a small trash fire.
“I don’t know that it’s unusual for what they do,” Bradford said. “When you look at the length of time, no, I wouldn’t say it’s an unusually high number.”
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is conducting an investigation into the business’s practices. KDHE spokeswoman Kristi Pankratz said the department received complaints about the recycling center in 2006, 2007, 2009 and following the most recent fire at the business, involving six cars, on Jan. 27.
KDHE investigators toured the business the day after the fire and were back at the site last week, investigating complaints that the recycling center is “not properly managing auto fluids.”
“They have made some changes to their process,” Pankratz said. “We’re also in the process of providing them further direction to complete the changes.”
The city’s code enforcement division also received a complaint about the business last December. Code director Brian Jimenez said he received a complaint about salvage materials being piled up higher than the fence.
Property owner Bo Killough did not return repeated calls seeking comment.
According to the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department, the recycling center property is zoned residential, but long-range planner Amy Brown said it was determined in 2003 to be “a legal nonconforming use.”
That’s something that doesn’t sit well with nearby neighbors.
“It’s zoned residential, and the activities out there just don’t work with houses and neighbors, people trying to live their lives next door,” Repinsky said. “It’s not really right. People should be able to enjoy the peace and quiet of their home without worrying about an industrial facility right down the street.”