JULIA ROBERTS GOAD
GOODY Ky. - The cause of an Independence Day fire on leased property in Pike County is the cause of some controversy.
The fire started on the evening of July 3, on property adjacent to the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks at Goody near the Community Bank, soon after the annual fireworks show presented by the Belfry Volunteer Fire Department.
The property is owned by Denny Moore, owner of Reliance Realty, and was leased by Ken Pennypacker, who operates a recycling business, K and W Metals, near the location of the fire.
The fire burned only some used railroad ties owned by K and W, and no one was injured in the blaze. The fire was a large one, however, with over 50 firefighters from five fire departments on scene. The Environmental Protection Agency was also at the scene, as well as Emergency Services personnel from Pike and Mingo Counties.
The BVFD had just finished their annual fireworks show near Southside Mall when they spotted some railroad ties on fire. However, the department was able put the fire out quickly.
“They knocked it down, and even checked the site with thermal imaging,” Pike County Emergency Services Director Doug Tackett said. “Then at about 4 a.m., we received a call that the fire had started again.” All the ties were engulfed when firefighters arrived, he said.
Mutual aid from the other departments was called in, firefighters were on the scene 12 hours before they could get the fire contained.
Tackett and BVFD said they felt the fire was the result of arson, due to the nature of the blaze and the fact that it rekindled hours after firefighters left the scene after the site was checked with a thermal imaging camera.
There was no investigation by the Kentucky Fire Marshal or the Kentucky State Police of the suspected arson.
The owner of K and W Metals, Kenny Pennypacker, had a fire at his business in 2009, which was ruled as accidental. No fines were levied against Pennypacker for that fire.
Ken Pennypacker suffered a stroke in 2009, and has been in a nursing home in Michigan since that time. K and W Metals has being operated by his niece and nephew, Jodie Patrick and Steve Pennypacker since that time.
They contacted the Daily News to say they felt the fire was the result of the fireworks show, and not arson.
“As soon as that fireworks show ended was when people saw flames,” Jody Patrick said. “People all around said there were burning embers falling on them.”
The Pennypacker family said they feel the reason Doug Tackett and Nee Jackson are calling the fire arson is twofold: they do not want the public to suspect the BVFD of causing the fire with the fireworks show, and that Tackett has a personal grudge against Pennypacker as a result of the 2009 fire.
“Doug Tackett did not like it that the first fire was ruled accidental,” Jodie Patrick said. “The Pike County Fiscal Court even filed a case against our uncle (Ken Pennypacker), and sent a bill to him.”
Patrick said she thought it was obvious that they fire was the result of the fireworks show.
“Who in their right mind would set those ties on fire?” she asked. “We have had those ties there for years. They had a fireworks show with a burning ban in place, but they are calling it arson.”
Patrick said she had contacted the BVFD, but could not get in touch with Jackson, and could not obtain a copy of the fire report.
The Daily News spoke to Jackson, who said the fire report had not been finished, due to the number of fire departments who were involved and had to submit information to him to compile the report.
He said the fireworks for the show are launched from a field adjacent to Belfry High School, and that the fireworks could not have reached the area location of the fire.
“The biggest firework we let off is six inches,” Jackson said. “It goes 700 feet into the air, that fire was thousands of feet away. We could have laid them on the ground and pointed them directly at those ties and it would not have hit them.”
Chief Jackson also said he felt if the fire was set by the fireworks, all the ties stored there would have burned, but that only old used ties were destroyed. He said there were new ties, stacked and bundled up, that were not burned.
Patrick said that the company did have insurance on the ties, that were worth $8 each, but that she had no idea what a dollar amount of the loss would be.
There was no investigation into the fire. The Kentucky Fire Marshal’s office said they were not called in to investigate. The decision of whether to investigate a fire scene is at the discretion of the chief of the fire department at the scene, which was Jackson.
Jackson said he did not ask for an investigation because, with the nature of the fire, there was not enough material left at the scene to conduct an investigation.
Richard Petticord, Assistant Director with the Kentucky Fire Marshal, said that an investigation was not always possible, or produced results.
“With the terrain, and different things, it might be impossible to determine the cause of a fire,” Petticord told the Daily News. “Without seeing the fire scene, I couldn’t say for sure whether we could have conducted an investigation. Arson fires are the hardest to investigate and to prove.”