Traverse City Record-Eagle


September 28, 2013

9-month-old underground fire irks neighbors

WATSON TOWNSHIP (AP) — An underground fire has smoldering for nine months in western Michigan, filling the air with smoke at times and prompting warnings to motorists, officials said.

The fire is in peat moss in Allegan County’s Watson Township, about 25 miles southwest of Grand Rapids, WOOD-TV reported. People living near the swampy farm field say the smoke is making them sick and sometimes forces them to leave home.

“Our entire house smells like a fire pit, it has that stink,” said Cheryl Johnson, who lives in a home across the street. “You can probably hear a little bit in my respiratory that I have a cough, but it’s the headaches that are the worst.”

Farmer Frank Doezema, who along with a brother owns the property where fire is smoldering, said he believes it started last December when workers burned brush. He said he plans to work with an expert next week who will use a solution that may snuff out the fire.

This week, excavators were used in an effort to extinguish parts of the blaze.

“It’s frustrating for us, too, because we don’t want unhappy neighbors,” Doezema said.

Hopkins Fire Chief Tim McKinnon said his volunteers have tried four times to put out the fire over the last month, dumping 35,000 gallons of water. Similar fires have burned for years, he said, and the wants to get it extinguished.

“We’re trying to get down into the ground and saturate the ground and put the fire out, and it’s burning underground,” he said. “It’s below what we can reach with our hoses.”

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