SCOTTSDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Neighbors in a Scottsdale neighborhood say it looks like there's a large fire behind their homes almost every day. But it's not a fire – it's a crematorium.
The problem, according to residents, is the frequency of smoke has now become a health hazard, and sadly, they believe COVID is partly to blame. From the front, the Paradise Memorial Gardens is peaceful and quiet. But in the back, a much different picture.
"Over five minutes of heavy black smoke blowing throughout the neighborhood. It's just not right," said Dave Dubner.
Dubner has lived in the condos off 92nd Street and Shea Boulevard behind the crematory for 17 years. In the last year, he said the black smoke and smell have become far more frequent and hard to tolerate. He's been taking cell phone videos that show the billowing black smoke.
"I think the COVID thing, and more people are getting cremated," he said.
Marlene Dove lives next door to Dubner and is worried about the health of her and her husband.
"Your throat starts to burn, and you feel like you start coughing," Dove said. "Inevitably, some of us don't use the backyards because you just don't know when it's going to come."
Dove said it happens at different times of the day, so they can't plan around it. "The children screaming, 'There's a fire! There's a fire!' But it wasn't actually a fire; it was just the smoke coming out."
She said not only is the smoke overwhelming, but the odor is awful.
"There's a smell that comes out of there that is unrecognizable. I can't even tell you what it smells like," Dove said.
Because of this, several neighbors in the condos have put in complaints to the Maricopa County Air Quality Department. While they understand a high number of deaths in Arizona this past year is likely a factor, they're hoping the crematory can schedule burning on specific days. While the Memorial Gardens and crematory could not do an interview about the situation Thursday, they did tell Arizona's Family they are operating within all regulations set by Maricopa County.
Arizona's Family put in a public records request with the County to find out exactly how many complaints they've received about this but have not gotten that number back yet.
As for the neighbors, they hope there can be a solution where there are some days they don't burn like there have been so that they can enjoy their backyards once again.