Winter mornings in the Ozarks means stoking the wood stove to warm up the house. Columns of smoke climb from neighboring chimneys, mingling and filling the surrounding mountain hollows with a thin layer haze.
On Wednesday, Dec. 9, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality’s Office of Air Quality employee responded to a complaint in Heber Springs.
The city decided to stop leaf collection for a few weeks and Mayor Jimmy Clark said the city is looking for another place to take collected leaves and limbs.
The practice of burning excess leaves hadn’t been a problem in years past.
Heber Springs Fire Chief Jason Robitaille explained the fire department had a brush truck at the scene on standby.
“It became a bigger nuisance than what was anticipated,” Robitaille said.
The ADEQ report reads in part: “Upon arriving in Heber Springs I observed a substantial cloud of smoke originating near the downtown area and extending to the northeast past the Hwy. 25 bypass. After arriving at the city’s maintenance shop on 4th St. I found a pile of ground up leaves on fire. The fire was being attended to by Scott Habbley, Public Works Director, and members of the Heber Springs Fire Department. After introducing myself, I informed Mr. Habbley that the fire was in violation of Regulation 18.602 and instructed them to put the fire out, the fire department immediately began extinguishing the fire. Later that afternoon Mr. Jason Robitaille, Fire Chief, contacted me and stated they were having trouble putting the fire out; fire fighting efforts extended into the next day 12/10/20 before the fire was put out.”
The Arkansas Air Pollution Control Code contains Regulation 18.602 which reads simply: General Prohibition No person shall cause or permit the open burning of refuse, garbage, trade waste, or other waste material, or shall conduct a salvage operation by open burning.