SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. - Fire season is continuing to heat up, and historic drought conditions are only fueling major concerns. It's important that each of us do what we can to protect our property. But what if the most significant risk to yours was something you couldn't control?
It’s a frustration and worry Cris Pemberton says she lives every day.
“It’s a junk yard… an environmental hazard,” she said of her neighbor’s property. There have been cars collecting here for several years, but within the past two, it's just exploded. No one knows exactly how many automobiles are there.”
The make-shift parking lot along East Greenbluff Road is unsightly, yes, but that’s not why she’s so upset.
"If this catches on fire, my animals are going to die,” she said. “I won't' be able to move them fast enough.”
Cris has lived on her property for 26 years. She works with different agencies to share her horses with children and runs a small horse rescue. She says she’s tried to do what she can to protect what she loves during the peak of wildfire season, even contacting DNR for advice.
“We had them do a walk-through of the property to see what kind of condition we are in if we were to have a fire problem,” she said.
Cris tells our ‘Help Me Hayley’ they had some good tips, but she claims she was ultimately told, with so much fire danger right next to her land, it would be a dangerous fight.
“It would be unsafe for their crews, they would have to let it burn,” she said.
Cris said she estimates there are upward of 100 vehicles on the property with seemingly more being added in recent months and weeks. She says she has called every county agency she could think of to try to help.
KHQ reached out to the county today. A spokesperson told us, "the property was originally referred to the Prosecutor's Office by the Building and Planning Department for unlawful storage of junked vehicles."
The spokesperson went on to say there is an "active misdemeanor case" against the owner and that he "entered into a stipulated order of continuance under which he agreed to bring his property into compliance with the Zoning Code. He failed to do so and stipulated to violation of that agreement. As a result, on January 6, 2021, the District Court entered a judgment of guilty, placed (the owner) on 12 months' probation, and imposed a suspended sentence of 90 days jail and a $1,000 fine, the maximum penalty for the offense."
Spokane County officials say the probation terms order the owner to bring the property into compliance during the probation, or "he will serve the entire 90 days."
They went on to write, "on May 18, 2021, the Prosecutor's Office requested that the court revoke the probation or, alternatively, impose an intermediate sanction of jail time and a fine based on (the owner’s) lack of progress in cleaning up his property. The court imposed an intermediate sanction of 20 days electronic home monitoring, with the remainder of the sentence suspended and the conditions of probation still in effect. The Prosecutor's Office, with assistance of the Building and Planning Department, has monitored .. ongoing violations throughout this case and will continue to do so."
KHQ did speak with the property owner who said he is actually renting out the land. He claims he is working with the tenant to try to get it cleaned up.