WALNUT, ILLINOIS – A fire started as a controlled burn in the Green River State Wildlife Area more than a week ago. But a large deposit of peat caught fire underground – causing large clouds of smoke to blanket the area.
“It smells – it smells bad,” said Walnut resident Teri Regal.
The smell of thick smoke blankets parts of Lee County at night and in the morning.
“About 7:00 this morning we got calls, people having trouble with the smell,” said Walnut mayor Gary Brook.
A routine burn in the Green River State Wildlife Area is still smoldering because of the unusually dry conditions.
“We’re going to start flooding areas, trying to back up areas that are still burning,” said Todd Bittner of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Nearby farmers are using their irrigation equipment to help out.
“It will require a lot of water with how dry things are and how low the water table is,” said Bittner.
But residents are more worried about their health.
“A lot of people here are elderly, have heart conditions,” said Regal. “It’s hard for them to breathe, especially in the morning.”
Others are concerned about the commute to work.
“I didn’t get two miles out of town before fog and smoke so thick, I had to turn around and come back to town,” said Mayor Brook.
Farmers in the area started using their irrigation systems Thursday night, but the DNR doesn’t expect the smoke to subside until at least Sunday.