When smoke fills the air and the singe of a fire nearby is evident, caution and concern are expected. The burning of storm debris on Highway 395 South, near Elizabeth Road in Fulton County, over the weekend of Aug. 14 was a site of note. A burn permit was obtained by the Fulton County Road Department (FCRD), as the only burn site in the county.
Each staging site requires its own burn permit from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. ADEQ visits the site and looks at the site to determine that there is no pracitical, safe or lawful method disposal, said Mike Porta, assistant chief of air division with the ADEQ.
Sixteen counties in Arkansas have been issued a total of 41 site burn permits related to the January 2009 ice storm, Porta said.
The FCRD qualified for a burn permit at the Jay Church site because there were no water ways or houses within the site, said Charles Willett, Fulton County Judge.
Burning debris has been a necessity to keep FCRD on schedule.
"We've got deadlines to meet," he said. "If we have to burn again, then we will burn."
Willett filed for a clean-up extension past the initial Aug. 6 deadline. Now FCRD will have until February 2010 to complete clean-up, Willett said.
Although burning is a quicker means of debris removal, chipping and hauling debris allows for more documentation, which aids in the reimbursement process.
FEMA reimburses the county 75 percent; 12.5 percent reimbursement comes from the state, leaving 12.5 percent to be picked up by the county.
Total debris removal expense is over $2.5 million worth, "and we are still going," Willett said. "We are making it fine right now, the only thing is that we have to wait so long for our reimbursements." FCRD has received about $1 million in reimbursement already, but is waiting on $1.5 million more from FEMA.
"We've been out a lot of cost trying to keep everything going," Willett said.
The FCRD divided its resources to repair county roads in the western and northern parts of the county flooded by heavy rains in the past few weeks. One road is left to repair from flood water drainage, Willett said.
FCRD still has three to four months of debris removal work.
"We use our own equipment to try to cut costs instead of hiring out contract," Willett said. "We haul to the closest place we have to save fuel." Continued burning at the church site depends on the weather. Heavy rains have made the area very muddy, where trucks are unable to access, Willett said.
"We are recycling everything we can recycle," Willett said. Debris is chipped and then hauled to Florence, Mo. to be made into mulch and to Greenbay, Ark., the site of a paper plant.
"If anyone needs mulch, they can come and get it," Willet said. "Right now they can go to the Salem composting pile next to the Road Department building." FCRD plans to start chipping in Mammoth Spring at Union Hill Road on Aug. 24. A pile one-fourth mile long is visible from Highway 63, south of Mammoth Spring, Willett said.
FCRD counted 65,000 trees with hanging limbs in the county. Heavy summer foliage has created more stress on partially damaged branches, causing more limbs to fall over the summer, Willett said.
FCRD intends to continue working diligently to meet the February 2010 clean-up deadline, but with limited man power and resources, the department has its limits.
"We hope, that's what we are trying to do but I can't guarantee anything," Willett said. As of Aug. 10, 220,000 cubic yards of debris have been collected in Fulton County.