Fire aftermath still affecting town

Published 10/01 2013 09:45PM

Updated 10/03 2013 01:38PM

HOOPESTON -- Little is left of a tire factory which went up in flames, but for families living nearby, new problems spark every day. It's been almost three months since a fire destroyed J & R Used Tire. The smoke cleared weeks ago, but the headaches continue.

It's hard trying to find people not affected. Knock on the door of any house around the factory and every family has its own story.

The images from that day are clear in their minds, but new reminders are constantly found in their yards and homes. A beautiful day in the front yard is something Jenna Leslie does not take for granted anymore; not after high winds blew debris from J & R Tire onto her property last weekend.

"It almost looked like a dust storm. You would think, you know, we live somewhere, either a desert or something. It was just kind of covered."

That story is typical these days. In June, a spark hit some dust on a conveyor belt at the tire factory. It ignited an unforgettable fire which blanketed the town with smoke.

Leslie's lucky the black cloud was blowing away from her house. Her sister-in-law, Emily, was not as lucky.

"Having my mom and dad call me in a panic, then wondering how am I going to get my 1-year old and I out of this house without her getting hurt."

The soot and residue forced Emily Leslie to buy new furniture and electronics, and got her started on a now twice-a-week routine of cleaning her floors on her hands and knees.

"Murphy's Oil, Lysol and scalding hot water, and I have my rags. Well, I have a few rags left. Even after I clean them, they're just so gross that it's just easier to throw them away."

An aching back is the least of her worries. Her big concern is how the dusty air is affecting her daughter.

"Her health is like my main concern and it should be for any parent. But I mean, more so now because I don't know what kind of damage that can do to her in long terms."

There was a concern at one point about the drinking water, but the EPA insisted months ago it was tested and safe to drink. EPA officials could not be reached Tuesday for comment about the town's air quality.

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