BY JESS MASSULI
Two Eagle Scouts never expected the Fredericksburg fire marshal to show up at a Rowe Street house on Aug. 22, 2008 when they started a small fire in the backyard.
Thomas Ford, a junior at UMW and resident of the house, and Michael Schmidt, a junior at UMW and friend of Ford, started the fire in the backyard after making four trips to the dump with trash that was left behind by previous residents.
As Eagle Scouts, they both had experience with fire safety.
“We kept a hose five feet from the fire, kept it small, moved all flammables to the other side of the yard, sprayed the house and yard with water, and had a fire extinguisher in the kitchen,” said Ford.
Harold Babcock, the fire marshall, happened to be on College Avenue when he saw smoke coming from a backyard. He went to Rowe Street and called the fire department for a fire truck and three firemen to put out the fire at 3:49 p.m. The fire marshall would not allow the Eagle Scouts to put it out themselves.
“There was some rubbish on fire at the location,” said Reggie Phillips, the public information officer for the Fredericksburg fire department, “The problem is there is no open fires allowed in Fredericksburg.”
Ford and Schmidt were charged with open burning, a misdemeanor. They attended a summons on Aug. 28, 2008, but the case was suspended because Babcock was not present.
The fire marshal is on vacation this week.
They were released on summons. The hearing will be resumed on Sept. 18, 2008.
“Hopefully we only get a fine in court,” said Ford, “If the judge is nice, he may let us go with just a warning.”
Neighbors nearby said they saw smoke, but did not know what was happening.