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Bella Vista warned of unsafe air near underground dump fire

May 21, 2019
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In this Friday, March 15, 2019 photo, smoke rises from an underground fire in Bella Vista, Ark. Residents who live near the underground fire in northwest Arkansas should be prepared for unsafe air conditions while contractors work to extinguish the blaze, the local property association said. (Charlie Kaijo/The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP)
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In this Friday, March 15, 2019 photo, smoke rises from an underground fire in Bella Vista, Ark. Residents who live near the underground fire in northwest Arkansas should be prepared for unsafe air conditions while contractors work to extinguish the blaze, the local property association said. (Charlie Kaijo/The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP)

BELLA VISTA, Ark. (AP) — A property owner’s association is warning residents about the unhealthy air near an underground fire that’s been burning for 10 months at a former unlicensed dump in northwestern Arkansas.

Crews began fighting the fire Saturday at the Trafalgar Road site in Bella Vista, about 170 miles (270 kilometers) northwest of Little Rock.

The air quality prediction for the rest of the digging activities is for an “unhealthy” air quality index and higher, as made clear by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to the association’s webpage that is dedicated to the site cleanup.

Tom Judson, chief operating officer of the Bella Vista Property Owners Association, said the goal is to quench the fire within 30 days, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Judson had previously cautioned residents about a proliferation of smoke from the work site. The fire that’s burning at least 70 feet (21 meters) underground was first reported in July.

“Potentially, the smoke could be worse than we have seen to date,” he said in a video last week. “We want to make sure that our residents are aware of that. When you’re removing that material, you’re opening it up. All that oxygen is going in there. The fire is going to flare up, and it’s going to generate more smoke. So, that’s the biggest thing is we’re going to have more smoke than we have had previously.”

In December, state officials alerted residents near the fire to avoid lengthy or substantial exertion outdoors after an “unhealthy” air quality reading in the area. The state has continued to caution people living within a half-mile radius of the fire, though recent inspections conducted by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality have shown air quality outcomes primarily in the “good” range.

Smoke from the fire has caused respiratory and other health problems , some residents said.

The Arkansas Legislature passed a bill in March appropriating $20 million to help clean up the fire.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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