It may be a custom in these parts for authorities to turn a blind eye to the Fourth of July tradition of setting shoreline bonfires; and with 39 miles of coastline, Warwick usually glows on the fourth, if not the night before.
But Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur thinks some people are carrying their enthusiasm too far and, in fact, could be posing a hazard to neighbors and the environment.
What set Ladouceur off were the makings for a giant bonfire at the end of Samuel Gorton Avenue. A constituent brought the pile to his attention over the weekend and, when he stopped down Sunday evening he was surprised to find a mound of debris that included discarded building material, broken furniture, brush and just about anything that would burn.
Ladouceur was appalled. Being close to the bay, he questioned whether such a large fire, especially with the wind, could pose a hazard to nearby homes.
Ladouceur made a call to David Picozzi at public works, who sent a crew and removed the pile. He also alerted the Department of Environmental Management and the Coastal Resources Management Council because he thought they should be aware of the situation. He didn’t suggest what either agency might do, but said, “If they don’t know about it, they won’t do anything.”
But the councilman thinks the pile is far more than an outpouring of patriotism on the part of its builders.
“They’re using this for their own garbage dump,” he said Tuesday morning.
While the tepee of debris he found Sunday was gone, another one was already growing in its place. Sections of stockade fencing, wicker furniture and broken cabinets made up portions of the five-foot high pile.
Even without additional debris, Ladouceur said, “Flames will be shooting up 15 to 20 feet. This is not a fire pit.”
A walk around the mound revealed burned planks and a charred piano, remnants of a prior blaze.
“There’s some stuff here that we wouldn’t want to go out into the Bay,” he said, noting the proximity of the high tide line.
The councilman further remarked that having police and firefighters “baby-sit” known sites of bonfires is a waste of taxpayers’ money.
But what about a Fourth of July tradition that seems inextinguishable? Would he want to shutdown all bonfires?
“If it’s going to happen,” he said, “have it in a controllable area. Letting them run rampant throughout the city doesn’t make sense to me.”
Looking through the pile, Ladouceur added, “This stuff belongs in a dump; this isn’t a dump.”
Mayor Scott Avedisian said members of the Buckeye Brook Coalition brought the Samuel Gorton Avenue bonfire to his attention. The group spotted it during their kayak “Ride the Tide” excursion on Saturday.
He said the Police Department has received the plate number of someone dumping at the location and arrested someone for dumping Tuesday night.
As for interrupting the July Fourth tradition of bonfires, Tropical Storm Arthur may be the ultimate dampener. According to forecasts, the storm could start its delivery of wind and rain today.