Bentley residents have been putting up with smoke and stench from a still-smouldering grain elevator fire for three weeks. The owner is waiting on the insurance company to begin cleanup. (File photo by Black Press News Services)

Stench and smoke from grain elevator fire still hanging over Bentley

Spectacular blaze early on Dec. 23 destroyed landmark grain elevator

Bentley residents are coping with stench and smoke from a three-week-old grain elevator fire that continues to smoulder.

“It’s choking people,” said Mayor Greg Rathjen.

How bad the smoke is depends on the wind. On Thursday, it was not too bad, but on other days it is much worse.

“It is bad. When it drifts toward the downtown, it’s pretty hard for people.

“It has to be dealt with.”

When the wind is blowing from the east, the smell hits you as soon as you hit the edge of town, he said.

The fire at the grain elevator and local landmark was reported about 1:30 a.m. on Dec. 23. Volunteer firefighters from Bentley and Lacombe fought the fire all night.

Bentley’s paid on-call firefighters have been called back to the scene numerous times since the fire to pour water on hot spots.

Rathjen has been getting his share of complaints from residents who want to know when the burnt-out remains of the Healthy Herds Feedmill-owned grain elevator and tens of thousands of charred bushels of grain will be hauled away.

“People have been pretty patient,” said Rathjen. “But if you’ve got asthma or things like that, it’s terrible.”

He sympathizes with the elevator’s owner who, no doubt, has his hands full dealing with the fire’s aftermath.

“When a guy is down like that, you don’t want to make it any harder for them.”

Bentley chief administrative officer Marc Fortais said he has met regularly with Healthy Herds and got another update on Thursday.

“The owner of the property is working as quickly as he can with the insurance company,” said Fortais. “But obviously these things take time from an insurance perspective.”

The insurance company has been seeking quotes for the cleanup and Fortais expects there will be some action at the site soon.

“The owner of that property would like to see it cleaned up sooner rather than later.”

“In reality, it’s only been three weeks since that fire occurred over Christmastime and breaks so people just have to be patient as he works through that process.”

Fortais said the town office has received a number of complaints, which are forwarded to the insurance company so they are aware of local sentiment.

“Obviously, people have concerns and health is important for the community. You have people who are more susceptible to these types of things if they have asthma or those kind of health conditions.

“It’s important for us to get this rectified as soon as possible.”

The challenge has been that the fire continues to burn deep within the pile of charred grain.

“At the end of the day, until you get in there and start to excavate that pile and open it up you’re going to continue to have smouldering and those types of things there.”

When work begins to haul away the debris, the town’s fire department will be on hand to help, he added.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

A Healthy Herds representative declined to comment on Thursday.



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