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Bonfire Canceled, Man Arrested for Burning Trees Anyway

Salem, Massachusetts holds an annual bonfire to dispose of leftover and used-up Christmas trees, but they canceled it because of the weather. Joseph Richard Ferrante Jr., of Ipswich, Mass. didn't like the news, so he set them on fire anyway.

He has been charged with willful and malicious destruction of property.

The event was originally going to be held last Thursday, but the Salem Fire Department had the city postpone it to the following day because of high winds. Ditto for the next day too.

Ellen Talkowsky, special projects manager for Salem, told the Salem Gazette the city wasn't going to reschedule, because the weather will only get worse, and the legal burning season is coming to an end. Instead, the Department of Public Services will chip the trees, and use them for city trails.

Ferrante was arrested by local police, after a woman saw him standing near the pile, and later identified him after the pile burned.

According to the police report, "she observed the same male party running from the trees with a canister in his hands and observed that the trees were now on fire. The man jumped into his van and sped off."

The police were called, and an officer showed up to speak with the woman.

Here's the best part from the Gazette's story:
When a police officer arrived to speak with the woman, he saw the pile of trees “fully engulfed” in flames, although the fire department’s quick response spared some of the trees.
Yes, you read that right: the fire department's quick response spared some of the trees that were originally going to be burned.

I haven't heard anything this crazy since I read Catch-22. This ranks right up there with "we had to destroy the village in order to save it" as one of the most asinine statements ever.

Look, I'm all for recycling and putting old Christmas trees to good use, but, heroes or not, I don't think the fire department needs to spend a lot of money putting out a fire of something that was going to be burned to begin with.

And the Salem courts don't need to waste court time or resources, especially when Massachusetts is $28 billion in the red, and the city is facing some massive budget cuts.

Yes, he maliciously and willfully destroyed property, but I think the Salem court system should have to show how much monetary damage was done, and then decide whether they should burn through city money to prosecute him for a few bucks worth of burned dead trees.

They also shouldn't charge Ferrante for the fire department's costs, since the smartest – and most cost effective – thing to do would have been to let the pile burn. They can eat that cost themselves. Then they can explain to the taxpayers of Salem why they added to the budget deficit by putting out a pile of trees that were originally going to be burned in the first place.

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  1. Since when do they object to burning things in Salem, Massachusetts? Wasn't the town sort of founded on that?


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