Governor Asa Hutchinson came to Bella Vista Friday, Dec. 28, to tour the stump dump and address the press. The governor officially declared an emergency last week after stating during the press conference that he intended to do so.
While the property owner, Brown's Tree Care, has attempted mitigation, Hutchinson said it clearly has not solved the problem and it's time for the state to step in. He's asked the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to employ an engineer to find the best solution, he said.
"We don't want to sit around and debate who's responsible ... the state of Arkansas is going to act on this matter," Hutchinson said.
After this is over, he said, will be a good time to discuss who may be liable but, for now, he wants to address the problem.
"We're going to cut through the red tape, we're going to get it done," he said.
This engineering will utilize state funds set aside to mitigate environmental disasters, he said, though it's worth noting this work will likely deplete those funds and the state will need to find a way to replenish them.
City council member and mayor pro-tem John Flynn sat in for Mayor Peter Christie, who was out of town that week.
Flynn said he was impressed with state officials and their willingness to tackle the issue.
It's been frustrating to work at the city level, he said, without the means to tackle this fire, and he understands why residents are frustrated with the issue.
"This is the toughest, biggest problem we've had ... it's a daunting challenge and I hope we can get some relief," Flynn said.
Among those attending was Bella Vista resident Amber Goin.
Goin said she lives near the burning stump dump but she's been staying with a family member.
She had to rehome her dog, she said, and members of her family have been experiencing bloody noses, sore throats, low blood oxygen levels and coughing.
"We cough every morning," she said. "They need a public health assessment."
While staying away from the site, Goin said her family's symptoms have improved -- but if officials decide to excavate the site to put the fire out, she expects nearby residents will need to evacuate.
Congressman Steve Womack addressed the crowd as well.
Womack said the smoke and smell were worse than he saw on previous visits.
"This is a tough, tough issue," he said.
Finding the funding to handle this fire is going to be difficult, especially with multiple environmental disasters nationwide and a currently-unfunded EPA, he said.
Officials are looking at multiple options to put out the fire and water is not completely off the table, he said.
"Somehow, some way, we have to get this fire out," he said.
General News on 01/09/2019
Print Headline: Emergency declared for Trafalgar Road fire