FF12: Citizens complain of massive tire dump, city responds

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Situated on the east side of Mead just south of Harry in Wichita, a once empty building has drastically changed in recent months.

"It's a lot of tires."

"I mean we're talking, we're talking a lot of tires here."

There's not much more you can say when you happen upon the building. It has a large, open garage-like door and the building has a curved roof. There's a lot, potentially for parking, to the north of the building. Both areas are full of used tires. There are easily hundreds filling the area in a pile that's overwhelming to those who live and work nearby.

They tell FactFinder 12 they want answers.

"Every day it just seems to be more and more tires piling up and they're spilling out of here now," said Geno Talkington who lives nearby.

Talkington said he's watched men in pickup trucks dump tires at the location several times

"Sometimes they're like right out here in the middle of the street. You can't even drive down here," Talkington said about the tires that are dumped.

But he's never seen a business name on the trucks and doesn't know who the men are.

"It's not the best neighborhood but we don't want it look like complete trash. We take the kids and dogs for walk through here, and just, you know, would like for it to be clean," he said.

A few properties north of the building now filled with tires sits Williams Gun Works owned by Clint Turner. Turner is within walking distance of the building and viewing distance of the tires.

He took us around the back of the property to see the scope of the problem.

"We're not exactly sure what's going on," Clint said as he showed FactFinder 12 how the tires are piled clear to the back of the property.

He said he has two major concerns about the dumping.

"The biggest deal, the biggest worry I have is one, fire. Two, with all the rain that we've had, these fill with water and now we're talking about mosquito issues," Turner said.

Both Turner and Talkington say they've called the city but haven't heard back. That's why they called FactFinder 12.

We learned the Wichita Fire Department is aware of the problem and is concerned about the rubber fuel.

"A tire fire is a mess," said Wichita Fire Marshal Stuart Bevis. "A tire fire with that proportion, with that amount of storage is something we don't want to deal with."

Bevis said there's other problems at the property too.

"There's very specific codes on how you can store tires, how many tires you can have, the width of aisles. There's a plethora of codes that apparently none of those are being followed in that area so we start doing an enforcement," Bevis said.

That enforcement doesn't happen overnight. He said city partners get together to discuss every violation. That includes police, fire, environmental health and others. Then, they give the owner the chance to fix the issues all at once.

FactFinder 12 asked Bevis where the fire department is in the process of handling the building on Mead.

"It's very early in the process," he answered. "I mean it just now came to our attention and we're identifying people but there have been meetings between the fire department, the police department, environmental health and other involved entities to see what is the best methodology to move forward. The city law department can help us draft documents and things like that."

Bevis said this complaint is a high priority for the department calling it "a significant issue" but he said several factors come into play in getting it fixed.

We asked if the fire department had spoken with the owner yet and Bevis said he couldn't get into the finite details of this case, but said the city is working through it.

Those who live in the area say they're not sure who is renting the space to contact them about it.

Investigator Devon Fasbinder asked if he had an estimate of how long it would take to get the area cleaned up.

Bevis said, "No, not really because it really depends on the level of cooperation we get and communication and sometimes it's just limited by resources as well."

Bevis said sometimes people are willing to fix the issue and have to go through the steps of doing it properly. In this case, that can be where environmental health can come in. He said other times they aren't and then the fire department can use it's tactics to force their hand.

He said the department doesn't like issuing citations right away without giving the owner the chance to fix the problem.

But those back at Harry and Mead said that fix can't come soon enough.

"I mean this is our neighborhood," Talkington said. "They don't want to live like that in their neighborhood. Don't make us live like that in our neighborhood."