If you’d asked me a few months ago, name the dates that have impacted your life, I’d have said, the day I got married, the day I had my daughter, and the day I moved to Bella Vista to finish out my career and retire. My husband and I purchased our retirement home in August of 2017 after relocating to Bella Vista 4yrs prior. It was completely remodeled to make it just like we wanted, and we moved in March 15th 2018. After returning from vacation at the end of July, we began smelling smoke and were told there was a “stump dump fire” burning nearby. A little research and I found that the Fire Department said it was under control and it was expected it to be out within a week. Time passed and we still smelled smoke outdoors occasionally. A little more research found a Facebook post from the Fire Department saying it would be out by the end of the month (September). October came and went and the smoke and smell intensified. It made it almost impossible to be outside. In November it was infiltrating my home, vehicles and body. It was obvious the city fire dept had failed to follow through on either time line and I decided it was time to get more involved.
We could no longer maintain the exterior of our home and yard, enjoy our deck with the view that we purchased our house for. The little things like grilling outside, getting the mail, and taking out the trash had to be worked around this stench that had taken over our lives. We could no longer take our pets outside without wearing a mask. Our clothes stank. My hair stank. Even our pets stank! Our quality of life was plummeting.
I began contacting other neighbors seeking answers and after hearing another neighbors research of the Purple Air Sensors, I purchased 2. One for my home and one for a neighbor on the opposite side of the fire. My greatest fears came true after seeing the Purple Air Readings. The particulate matter had spikes with readings in the unhealthy range a large part of the time. The toxins were revealed in the EPA’s report and in further information I received from citizens. What the public was being told was steam from a stump dump fire was actually toxic burning materials that were out of control. The particulate matter was off the charts at times and the EPA confirmed we lived in a hazardous area.
My husband and I had been healthy empty nesters looking forward to the next chapter of our lives prior to July 29, 2018. Now, we both suffer from health issues. I have experienced burning skin, burning nose, burning eyes, asthma, B-12 Deficiency, low oxygen capacity, increased blood pressure, severe headaches, tingling extremities, and even stroke like neurological symptoms. Multiple blood tests and x-rays have been done, next on the list is a chest CT. I struggle at work to focus, I’m fatigued, I’m short of breath and my husband suffers the same. WE WERE HEALTHY! When I begged my doctor for help and asked what I could do, the response was simple, “remove yourself from the environment”. He advised all symptoms were environmental and consistent with the affects of the toxic fire.
I couldn’t imagine leaving my home or where we would go, until December 10th when we awoke to a home filled with stench and smoke. We both struggled to breath all because we went to sleep and left our heat on. The furnace had drafted the toxins into our home through our pet door and garage. It had come inside before, but nothing to this extent. December 10th changed everything. When my husband went 3 hours struggling to breath, when I went 6 hours with neurological and breathing issues. Dec 10th was the day that I COULD imagine leaving my home. The home I imagined growing old with my husband, rocking on the deck looking at the beautiful scenery; the home we put our life savings into; the home we imagined having our future grandchildren come visit. After December 10th, we couldn’t imagine staying in our home. We took our pets and the essentials and moved into our RV to escape our own home and the affects the Trafalgar Road Fire has had on it.
Regardless of smoke or smell, I still become ill when I go back to my own home to check on things or try to do laundry. I am living a nightmare. The dates that now dominate my life.
· July 29th 2018 – 189 Days since the fire was started on top of the dump
· December 10th 2018 – 59 days since the day we decided we had to leave our home
· December 25th 2018 – the first Christmas my family has ever spent Christmas other than in our home
· February 11th, 2019 – 189 days and still no plan for remediation, no evacuation, and no health issues addressed!
When will someone take action and end this for my family and my neighbors? What will it take before they evacuate, a death? We cannot remain silent. We must scream from the rooftops! Neighbors must rise up and be heard. Children are sick, elderly are sick, healthy adults are sick, even our pets are sick! Homes are unlivable! This is affecting peoples mental, physical and financial well being. It is inhumane the way we have been abandoned to breath this toxic air. Someone please evacuate us and put the fire out! SAVE THE VILLAGE!
Stacey & Bart Lewis (932 Ft)