Post-fire air clear of harmful chemicals, Bentonville officials say


BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — When the Bentonville Fire Dept. started its air quality tests after a large fire broke out at United Industries, it tested for two things: volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) and carbon monoxide. In a Thursday press conference, the city’s deputy fire chief said none were found in the tests either day after the fire.

Some people who spent considerable amounts of time in Bentonville on Wednesday expressed discomfort in the form of headaches or coughing. Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Boydston said if those symptoms had anything to do with the fire, it may have had to do with extremely low levels of carbon monoxide. But more likely, it was due to other factors like allergies, he said.

No firefighters expressed any symptoms of smoke inhalation, Boydston said, and he credited this to the new equipment the department utilizes to protect its people in fire situations.

A lingering smell prompted Boydston to be questioned whether remnants of smoke were still in the air. He said burning Styrofoam sheets were the cause of the large black plume that was spotted in neighboring towns, and the smell of that material was the culprit.

“You’re not smelling smoke. What you’re smelling is the effects of the aroma of Styrofoam,” Boydston said. “Even on a typical day when they’re in production, you’ll smell that. You will.”

Boydston said the fire department will continue testing the air as it flows downstream simply as a precautionary measure but that nobody should worry about long-term health problems related to the fire.

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