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Tire fire under investigation

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — A pile of tires that burned last Wednesday at a Carroll County residence has sparked an investigation by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, emergency officials say.

Shortly after responding to a vehicle fire, Hillsville Fire Department personnel got alerted to a blaze at 3960 Poplar Camp Road, according to information from David Young, the department's photographer. This was at the residence of Sandy Cochran.

"When we were responding to the fire from Hillsville, you could see black smoke rolling up in the sky several miles away," he said.

This prompted Hillsville officers to seek assistance from Cana, Barren Springs and Galax fire departments.

Firefighters stretched out lines from the road about 300 yards to reach the flames, while Carroll deputies and Virginia State Police troopers shut down the road and controlled traffic.

Firefighters hosed the tires with foam to knock down the fire.

Galax Fire Department drove its tanker through a field to shoot the blaze with its built-in cannon while volunteers remained inside the truck.

Firefighters estimated the number of tires involved in the fire at 200 to 300, according to Young.

Carroll officials are not certain how the fire started, but Joe Roma, the county's emergency services director, noted there was a pile of trash in the same vicinity of the tires.

Personnel from the Department of Environmental Quality will lead the ensuing investigation, he said.

Depending on what they find, it's possible the property owner could face charges on environmental grounds, Roma said.

"When it comes to that kind of material, the runoff [from the fire] could be hazardous because it's oil-based," he said. "The water could be contaminated from water runoff from the fire with oil products mixed into it.

"If it's over 500 tires, it's considered a felony, but that determination will be made by DEQ," Roma said.