Mesa mulch fire continues smoldering, owners say they are close to putting out hotspots
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - The Maricopa County Air Quality Department says it continues to receive complaints from people in the area about the smoke they’re seeing in the air. They have now issued the recycling facility a notice to extinguish the fire. If they don’t, they could be fined up to $10,000 a day.
The owners, Alicia Perry and her husband Justin say it’s an immense task as a local small business that has already lost its primary source of income. She says the last nine days have been exhausting and devastating. “Nobody ever thinks they’re going to wake up one day and their entire worlds is on fire, literally,” Perry said.
CTS Greenwaste Recycling caught fire on May 31st after spontaneous combustion. Since then, the smoke has continued to billow up in the air, and just a few days ago, Rural Metro Fire turned over firefighting efforts to the facility. “What we have to do is break up the piles, and you need heavy equipment that we have; the fire department doesn’t. We have excavators and bulldozers, and a lot of our neighbors have stepped in to help with water trucks, too, so that’s what we’re using to put it out, and we’re getting really close.”
Some neighbors acknowledge the smoke has dwindled each day after the fire, while others have raised concerns. To date, data gathered from MCAQD’s air monitors indicate that the smoke emanating from the fire has not exceeded the federal health standard for particulate matter. “We have gotten some threats and harassment, but I think it’s because they don’t know what it is,” said Perry.
She said the business began as a dream for her husband almost 15 years ago. As a 5th generation farmer, she said he wanted to create a way to make desert farming more sustainable. “The initial farmers we’ve been working with, we actually give it to them. The money comes in from people being able to bring in green waste to the site,” Perry said.
Green waste includes things like branches, lawn clippings, and leaves. Perry says it’s helped the soil it’s been used in retaining more water so far. “We take that into to our facility, and we dry it out and have to get the moisture just right before we compost it and compost it into a soil amendment for farm fields like this one,” she said.
Unfortunately, though, Perry says much of the mulch will be unusable after it has smoldered for days. Perry shares the community’s wishes for the smoke to go away. “It’s getting less and less each day because we’ve almost gotten through 20-acre property, and not much is smoldering,” she said.
Maricopa County Department of Public Health acknowledges that smoke can hurt your eyes, irritate your respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases. They recommend that if you have asthma or another lung disease, follow your doctor’s advice about medicines and your respiratory management plan and call your doctor if your symptoms worsen. Limit your exposure to the smoke as much as possible by staying indoors and keep indoor air as clean as possible by keeping windows and doors closed and running an air-conditioner.
Air quality questions or concerns can be directed to 602-372-2703 or https://www.maricopa.gov/2132/Report-a-Concern-or-Violation. For daily air quality forecasts and updates, visit https://azdeq.gov/forecast/phoenix.
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