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9-Month-Old Underground Fire Irks Mich. Neighbors

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WATSON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) – An underground fire has been smoldering for nine months in western Michigan, filling the air with thick smoke at times and prompting warnings to motorists in the area, officials said.

The fire is in peat moss in Allegan County’s Watson Township, about 25 miles southwest of Grand Rapids, WOOD-TV reported. People living near the swampy farm field say the smoke is making them sick and sometimes forces them to leave their homes.

“Our entire house smells like a fire pit, it has that stink,” said Cheryl Johnson, who lives in a home across the street. “You can probably hear a little bit in my respiratory that I have a cough, but it’s the headaches that are the worst.”

Farmer Frank Doezema, who along with a brother owns the property where fire is smoldering, said he believes it started last December when workers were burning brush. He said he plans to work with an expert next week who will use a solution that may be able to snuff out the fire.

This week, Doezema used excavators in an effort to put out parts of the blaze.

“It’s frustrating for us, too, because we don’t want unhappy neighbors,” Doezema said.

The fire prompted Allegan County officials to put up signs warning motorists of “low visibility.”

Hopkins Fire Chief Tim McKinnon said his volunteer firefighters have tried four times to put out the fire over the last month, dumping 35,000 gallons of water. Similar fires have been known to burn for years, he said, and the wants to get it extinguished.

“We’re trying to get down into the ground and saturate the ground and put the fire out, and it’s burning underground,” he said. “It’s below what we can reach with our hoses.”

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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