FELL TOWNSHIP — A contracting crew is working nonstop, trying to put out a coal refuse fire in Lackawanna County. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection now says that the project won’t be completed any time soon.
“Weeks or months in regards to this fire. It’s just the matter of the time that it takes us to get through the fire, but it would be weeks or months.” said John Stefanko from the Department of Environmental Protection.
The project is taking more time and money than DEP first expected. A federal grant is being used to help complete the project because DEP says people who own the land do not have enough money to put out the fire themselves. State does have the funds to complete the project.
“So the estimate to put out the fire is $3 million, but should we get into the pile and if it should go beyond the $3 million we have the funds to do it,” said Stefanko.
DEP found out about the coal refuse fire back in December of 2013. At first officials thought kids burning tires had started the blaze. However, now they suspect the fire has been burning for several years. As crews douse the flames, puffs of steam rise from the site. It’s one of the few noticeable effects of the coal refuse fire.
Cecilia Cortez lives down the street.
“It stinks. It’s really smelly. I mean it is a stench you could not believe. I have to make sure all the windows are closed all the doors are closed. I have a dog to let out and I’m like ‘hurry get out’ so I can close the door. I mean really it’s that bad.”
DEP is not sure how far down the refuse fire is burning. However, the state promises to have crews dousing flames in Simpson until the blaze is completely out.