Concerned about the proposed burning of a historic structure in Saluda

Published 11:40 am Thursday, February 15, 2024

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We recently learned that the new owners of Crystal Springs on Henderson St. in Saluda want Saluda Fire & Rescue to burn the historic home down as a training exercise.

The loss of one of Saluda’s original boarding houses, built in 1900, of course, would be a tragedy for the community. Preservation North Carolina and the Historic Saluda Committee (of which the late owner of Crystal Springs was a founding member) are working to save the property. But they need more time.

We’re also concerned about the environmental consequences of burning such an old building. Last summer, the Durham Fire Department (DFD) conducted a “controlled burn” of a mansion built in 1940. News outlets reported this training exercise spewed chips of lead paint throughout the neighborhood—into the air and yards where children and pets play. While the DFD followed all environmental regulations for such a burn, it turns out there’s no NC requirement concerning lead paint. This makes you wonder what other environmental hazards fire departments and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality haven’t considered.

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As our home is fewer than 50 yards from Crystal Springs, we don’t want our land contaminated with lead paint chips. We don’t want to breathe whatever such a burn puts into the air. And we don’t want the water in the “crystal spring” and the creek behind the house—a water source that runs beneath the entire city—polluted. We know our neighbors don’t either.

The City of Durham had to pay to clean up soil contamination on several properties. Who is going to pay to clean up polluted properties in Saluda? Or for any health repercussions? Crystal Springs’ new owners? Saluda Fire & Rescue? After the burn, where does all the toxic debris go? Into our local landfills?

Needless to say, we and our neighbors have a lot of questions. Thankfully last week, the Saluda City Council charged the planning board with looking into this situation. We hope that the property’s new owners, the Polk County Fire Marshal and Saluda Fire & Rescue will work with the board to slow things down, so we can get our questions answered and find a solution that respects and works for all of us.

The new owners of Crystal Springs on Henderson St. in Saluda want Saluda Fire & Rescue to burn the historic home down as a training exercise


Peter Eisenbrown and Beth Brand