PHILADELPHIA-Four suburban Philadelphia men were indicted on charges stemming from the disastrous March 13 tire fire that damaged a portion of Interstate 95 and engulfed the city in smoke. Charges of risking a catastrophe, creating a public nuisance and related offenses were leveled March 14 against Daniel J. Carr, a used-tire dealer in Quakertown, Pa.; his son-in-law, Gerald Laarz, of Chalfont, Pa.; and his employees David Mitchell and Edward Dyson of Quakertown.
An unknown number of tires-anywhere from 10,000 to several hundred thousand, according to the Philadelphia Fire Department-were on Philadelphia Tire Disposal's property when an unknown arsonist set fire to the pile shortly after midnight March 13.
At its height, the fire created a plume of smoke visible 30 miles away. By 4 p.m., firefighters had controlled the blaze, but it had scorched through the concrete of an I-95 overpass above the site, exposing steel support beams.
Permanent repairs to the road are expected to take at least six months and cost up to $3 million.
According to the Philadelphia District Attorney's office, when officials in suburban Bucks County ordered Mr. Carr to move his stockpiled tires in Quakertown, he took some of them to the Philadelphia Tire Disposal site in Philadelphia's Port Richmond area.
News reports described Bucks County residents as disgusted with Mr. Carr, whose tire pile was widely considered a nuisance. Mr. Carr is on probation for allegedly forging a tire storage permit.
Meanwhile brothers Joseph A. and Harry Tomczak, owners of Philadelphia Tire Disposal, also known as Bond Tire Co., are charged with aggravated and simple assault, criminal conspiracy, reckless endangerment and making terroristic threats stemming from a March 5 incident.
On that date, Police Lt. Neil Lawley was in an unmarked police car and in plainclothes near the Philadelphia Tire Disposal site when the Tomczaks allegedly blocked his car with their vehicle and threatened to break Lt. Lawley's legs. When Lt. Lawley identified himself as a police officer, the Tomczaks allegedly scuffled with him until a backup car arrived.