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DEP Investigating Mine Refuse Fire

FELL TOWNSHIP — On Monday, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection started investigating a mine refuse fire burning in Lackawanna County.

People living nearby started worrying when the sulfur-like smell got stronger and stronger in recent weeks.

Facebook video taken by Jim Fortuner  answered a lot of questions from folks in Lackawanna County’s about where the smell and the smoke was coming from.

“I mean look at it. Even the ground is cracked.”

Officials from DEP say it’s a coal mine fire that broke through the ground on private hunting land in Fell Township, near Carbondale.

Joseph Shivitz saw smoke billowing a few miles away from his home in Browndale.

“My wife wakes up in the middle of the night; I thought there was something wrong with my furnace. She said she’s getting headaches, she smells the fumes. It’s bothering her.”

The curious smell spread to Forest City, too where Edward Biedencapp didn’t, at first, think mine fire.

“Last week we noticed it was smelling, about Wednesday into Thursday. It wasn’t a real weird smell, but it was almost like, we chalked it up to be sewage.”

DEP officials were made aware of the mine refuse fire last week.  They say as far as mine fires go, this one is not too unusual, but it does have an unusually strong smell. They believe it was started by someone burning tires back in the private woods.

This week, a crew hired by the DEP started work to put out the mine fire. They started by building a pump that will bring water from the Lackawanna River to the fire site.

They hope to have the flames out, and smoke gone in a month’s time. The problem is that they don’t know how deep the fire goes or how much of the land is undermined.

“It’s a little worse than I thought it would be just looking at that video. There’s quite a bit of smoke coming out of the ground in that video,” Shivitz said.

DEP officials say they don’t know who is responsible for setting the fire. Crews expect to start getting water on the mine fire this week and it should take three to four weeks to put it out.

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