BELLA VISTA (KFSM) — A Bella Vista family is suing the owner of a former stump dump, saying Brown’s Tree Care created a health hazard when it failed to extinguish a smoldering fire on the property.
The suit, filed Tuesday (Nov. 27) in Benton County Circuit Court by attorney Frank Bailey on behalf of Curtis Macomber and his family, seeks medical costs and lost wages related to smoke they say wafted from the stump dump onto their land.
The Macombers have asked for a jury trial.
Cletus Wilkins, owner of Brown’s Tree Care, has disputed the amount and frequency of smoke emanating from the site, which is catercorner to Kingsland and Trafalgar roads.
The Bella Vista Fire Department became aware of the fire in July, when a caller reported smoke at the site, according to Cassi Lapp, spokeswoman for the city of Bella Vista.
Firefighters found there was no safe way to put out the fire, which is smoldering underground and likely started from a burning brush pile.
Officials are monitoring the site and have warned residents not to enter the stump dump.
Bella Vista Fire Chief Steve Sims has spoken with a ranger from the Arkansas Forest Commission, which is considering creating a fire break along the site’s perimeter if necessary when it’s closer to spring time — when fire dangers increase.
The rangers may come sooner, but not date has been set yet. Officials stress this would be done as a precaution, not because there is an elevated risk of the fire spreading.
The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality was notified about the fire last summer, along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is taking samples of the air quality.
Lapp said the city expects to receive the results from those tests soon, possibly by the end of this week.
The city has set up a website to track the progress of the fire, which can be found here. An informational meeting with some city council members is set for 10:30 a.m. Saturday (Dec. 1) at the Metfield Clubhouse.
Mayor Peter Christie has also reached out to state and federal officials, including state Sen. Jim Hendren and U.S. Senator John Boozman.
The stump dump was leased by the Bella Vista Property Owners Association from 2008 to 2016.
It was used as a collection area for residents’ stumps, brush and leaves. The POA closed the stump dump down in 2016 after it reached capacity.
Recently, residents said they’ve found evidence the dump contains remnants of discarded construction materials, including concrete and fiberglass.
The POA also closed another stump dump on the west side of town after an order came down from ADEQ.