As the end of the Great Helotes Mulch Fire finally appears within sight, with the latest, low water, fire-fighting efforts apparently on track to extinguishing the two-month old blaze in the next few weeks, the giant smoking brush pile has gone national—making the Washington Post, page A02:
HELOTES, Tex. -- The smoke comes and goes with the breeze, but some days it blankets Deanna Rodriguez's neighborhood, covering cars in grimy ash and seeping inside homes. Some days, when the wind blows from the south, her house becomes almost uninhabitable.
"We can get the rugs cleaned, the furniture cleaned. My main concern is the kids," she said of her three children. "They're breathing that in."
Rodriguez's neighborhood sits only a few hundred yards from a giant mulch fire that has burned, day and night, in a pasture in this small town west of San Antonio since just after Christmas.
No one knows what caused the fire at the H.L. Zumwalt Tree Disposal's recycling facility eight weeks ago. But, the result is a smoldering pile of ash eight stories tall and hundreds of feet long that gives healthy adults and children headaches, irritated eyes, sore throats and other allergy-like symptoms, and threatens the frail even more.
Officials predict it will take at least three more weeks to extinguish the fire. Progress has been slow because the environmental officials in charge of putting out the fire have had to balance air-quality concerns in Helotes with protecting the sole water source for 1.8 million people in the region.
The Dallas Morning-News also has a column on it, with a concise quote from Helotes Mayor Jon Allen:
"You know, this isn't just an isolated incident. It's a symptom. We're just not doing a very good job protecting the environment in Texas."
As columnist Jacquilynn Floyd wrote, "the only really good solution would have been to keep it from happening in the first place, and that horse left the barn a long time ago."
Finally, for any who may have missed it, last Thursday the San Antonio Express-News posted a spectacular photo essay on the Helotes mulch fire. Go to this link, scroll down, and click on the "E-N slide show: The Helotes fire" link. I heartily recommend it.