Dead pets remain among ruins of mobile home fires

Neighbors say the smell is so bad sometimes that “it just bowls you over”

1/9 – Three mobile homes burnt to the ground in Bella Casa Mobile Home Park in Pleasant Hill, Ore. on July 18,2017. The remains of the homes, which contain asbestos, have not yet been cleared. The neighbors claim that there are remains of dead animals on the site causing alarming smells and possible health risks. (Rhianna Gelhart/The Register-Guard)


PLEASANT HILL — More than three weeks after a three-alarm fire destroyed three residences in the Bella Casa Mobile Home Park, the ruins of the homes have yet to be removed. And carcasses of four of the pets killed in the fire remain as well, permeating the park with the stench of decomposition.

For resident Iris Potter, a 6-foot-tall fence is all that separates her backyard from the rubble and the carcasses. She said she has noticed flies circling the remains of two cats in what had been a mobile home at the far left and two dogs that died in the middle home.

“I can smell them,” Potter said Tuesday. “Sometimes it’s so bad, it just bowls you over.”

Potter said she has reached out to the manager of the mobile home park, seeking permission to pour limestone over the remains to speed decomposition and reduce the smell, but she hasn’t heard back.

The July 17 predawn fire displaced seven residents and sent one man to the hospital. Dan Sallaz, 51, suffered second-degree burns all over his face, forearms and hands after running through a burning wall to escape his mother’s burning mobile home. His sister, Julie Barrett, said Tuesday that Sallaz is almost fully recovered and back to work as an independent contractor.

But the fire killed six pets in all.

According to residents, the remains of two cats killed in the fire were picked up and disposed of. But many of the people displaced by the blaze have not returned and have not retrieved the bodies of their deceased pets.

With last week’s temperatures breaking 100 degrees, the carcasses have drawn clouds of flies.

Potter said her yard is infested with the green flies — “the ones that love bodies.”

“They’re everywhere, and late afternoon there are just thousands of them,” Potter said. “Later today, this fence will be lined with them.”

Two of the homes that were destroyed were uninsured, so the cleanup has been left to the mobile home park, according to park manager Karen Moore.

Moore said the situation was being “handled,” and she declined to comment further on the conditions at the park or how much the cleanup would cost.

Jo Niehaus, the public affairs coordinator for Lane Regional Air Protection Agency, said that the burned structures need special contractors for disposal because they contain asbestos.

“They have tested for asbestos on some of the material, so they’re probably going to treat everything like it has asbestos, just to be on the safe side, and it will get disposed of properly,” Niehaus said.

Owners of the property waited until Monday to submit a notice for the proper disposal of the debris to the air protection agency, Niehaus said.

Work to begin removing the debris is scheduled to start Aug. 21, and all of the debris — including the carcasses — has to be removed by Sept. 4.

But for park residents, the prospect of living with the ruins, the smell and the asbestos for up to four more weeks is discouraging.

Diane Matusch, 64, said she moved to the property two years ago with her husband. Attracted to the low cost of living and the plush landscaping, Matusch saw Bella Casa as an alluring retirement spot.

But just a couple of months after Matusch moved in, the house next to her caught fire, and the swimming pool that made the mobile home park appealing to her to begin with was filled with cement. All the while, her rent was increasing.

July’s blaze, which happened right across the street from her home, felt like a breaking point.

“I don’t want to look at this!” Matusch said. “I am depressed every time I get up and I look out my front window and I have to look at that,” she said, pointing toward the ruins.

Residents also are concerned for their health. Potter said she had to remove pieces of insulation containing asbestos that fell in her yard after the blaze.

Niehaus said it is possible that asbestos particles could be released into the air from the site, but if the structures are watered frequently enough to stay moist, this becomes less likely. The moisture keeps loose asbestos fibers from flying into the air.

“What most people don’t understand is asbestos is dangerous when it’s friable, which means that it breaks apart easily and crumbles,” Niehaus said. “That’s when the fibers are released into the air, so if it stays solid and doesn’t go anywhere, it’s going to be fine.”

It was unclear whether anyone had taken precautions at the mobile home park to keep asbestos from being released into the air.

Niehaus said residents are in the most danger of inhaling asbestos if they walk through the debris, which has been sectioned off by caution tape.

Follow Rachel on Twitter @rachelrippetoe . Email .

This article was first published here

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