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Dump's Fumes Hurt Colorado Firefighters

July 14, 2002|From Associated Press

DURANGO, Colo. — Fumes from an illegal landfill sickened firefighters at a wildfire in southwest Colorado and could contaminate a river, officials said.

Firefighters found the dump two weeks ago under a dam on land owned by the federal Bureau of Reclamation.

Six firefighters were treated at a hospital after breathing yellow smoke from the dump, said Wano Urbonas, environmental health director for the San Juan Basin Health Department.

The firefighters were battling two blazes near Durango that burned 71,000 acres. Durango is about 380 miles southwest of Denver.

The dump is on a steep hillside burned by the fire, and rain could wash contaminants into a creek that flows into the Pine River, Urbonas said.

Urbonas said the bureau agreed to clean up the dump on June 28 but hadn't done so. He sent a violation notice Friday, giving the bureau 10 days to hire an environmental consultant and clean the site.

Judy Martin, the Bureau of Reclamation official assigned to the case, did not immediately return calls.

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