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St. Augustine fire burning for five weeks now affecting businesses, others nearby
A wood yard waste facility in St. Augustine has been burning for more than a month, and it's starting to affect people and businesses in the area.
Kenneth Amaro, WTLV 7:54 PM. EDT August 10, 2017
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - The wood yard waste facility on Dodd Road in St. Augustine has become a community nuisance.
"It has been burning approximately four weeks," said resident Rebecca Page.
Page works for Global Wrap, downwind from the yard waste facility.
"We're trying to work in a warehouse and we're having a hard time breathing," Page said.
Global Wrap has decided to shut down its production operation, for now.
"Our production has completely stopped in the warehouse," Page said. "We cannot have employees working complaining about coughing, they're chest hurting, it is unsafe, it is a health hazard."
July 9, lightening struck the wood yard waste facility setting one of the piles on fire. It has been smoldering since.
Debbie Mathews is the office manager at Island Breeze.
"I go home a lot to work because the smoke is overbearing with my asthma," she said.
The wood yard waste facility is a three site. Since the fire, the operator has separated the pile of debris that is burning from the clean debris.
"We want to separate the clean debris and then we can work on the side that is burning," said Ralph Madaffari, who runs the operation.
He said so far, they have removed 13,000 cubic yards of clean debris from the site.
Madaffari said they have tried to put out the fire but it has been difficult.
"We covered it with dirt, we watered it down, but it acts like an oven on the inside," Madaffari said. "It is so hot with the lightening that it continues to burn across the pile."
He was sympathetic to his neighbors concerned, and said he is doing all he can do.
"I wish I could stop it," Madaffari said. "I wish I could help the neighbors, but there is no way we can."
A spokesperson with the St. Johns County Fire Rescue said they have dumped nearly two million gallons of water on the fire and it is still smoldering. He said they are monitoring it day to day.
Madaffai said the burning pile of wood debris is not only taking a toll on his neighbors and it is also affecting his business.
"We're suffering not the same as smoke," he said. "But we are suffering financially."
He told On Your Side that his company is working diligently to get rid of the problem behind me. He said it will most likely take a month before it is gone.
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