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story.lead_photo.caption Keith Bryant/The Weekly Vista A fire department vehicle sits nearby as a column of smoke rises from the former stump dump off Trafalgar Road.

A former stump dump near Trafalgar Road caught fire last week and underground material burned, sending a great deal of smoke into the air.

Bella Vista Fire Department deputy chief Bryan Wolfgang said that he estimates the layers of brush, stumps and dirt could be burning as deep as 50 or 60 feet underground and it's hard to say what the end result could be.

"We don't know how far this is going to burn back," he said.

The department is monitoring the situation, he said. While there is no immediate danger, people need to stay back because the burning materials are leaving voids in the ground which could become sinkholes, he said.

Wolfgang said he could feel heat coming from the ground through his boots when he walked near the fire. It isn't uncommon, he said, for decomposition to create enough heat to make a stump dump like this burn.

Jimmy Seymour with Brown's Tree Care, the land's owner, began working last week to mitigate the fire, which he said hit a boiling point after smoldering underground for several years.

"It's just naturally burning, but I think it's reached its boiling point," he said.

At the end of the day Monday, Seymour said he had put in about 40 hours working on the fire, using a backhoe to rip the larger stumps and logs from the ground and letting them burn out on the surface while he packs red clay into the voids they leave behind.

Seymour said his company purchased the 7.64-acre piece land roughly four months ago, but the fire has been burning longer than that. While he doesn't believe the company is responsible for it, he said he wanted to take care of it.

"I can't promise it but I think this is about out," he said. "I hope this right here will take care of the concerns of the citizens."

Bella Vista Fire Department Battalion Chief Ronnie Crupper said there's a lot of material to burn because the stump dump was active for several years, during which all sorts of stumps and yard debris were thrown into the ravine and used as fill.

As the material burns, he said, more voids form in the earth, which allows oxygen to reach deeper and help burn more and more material.

"There are a lot of cracks, fissures in the ground," he said.

Because of this, he said, it would be extremely dangerous to put personnel or equipment down to fight the fire. Firefighters are monitoring the situation and keeping it contained but allowing the fire to burn itself out, he explained.

Crupper estimated the fire could continue burning at least a few months.

"It all depends on how much air can get through," he said.

The fire is putting out a lot of smoke, Crupper said, and he encouraged nearby residents to keep their windows closed and their air conditioner running.

Donnally Davis, communications director with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, said that smoke can be made up of various substances, including carbon monoxide, and nearby residents should exercise caution.

"Keep windows closed and run your air conditioner if possible," she said. "Running an indoor air filter is effective in helping reduce the amount of polluted air inside the home."

It's also important to be aware of prevailing winds, Davis said, and try to stay upwind of the fire. Anyone currently downwind of the fire should avoid spending time outside, she said.

Seymour climbed back into his backhoe, throwing some more dirt before parking the massive machine after a long day of digging.

"It's just something that's going to smoulder for no telling how long," he said.

General News on 08/08/2018

Print Headline: Old stump dump ignites

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