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Web Extra: Officials Warn Burning Debris Can be Toxic

As Faulkner County prepares for thousands of volunteers to come help devastated areas this weekend, there's a big warning tonight-- no fires.
Faulkner County -- As Faulkner County prepares for thousands of volunteers to come help devastated areas this weekend, there's a big warning tonight-- no fires.

It's tough because people are anxious to clean up and start rebuilding.

The only thing they're supposed to burn is natural vegetation.

Many people appear to be breaking the ruls and spreading toxins across disaster zones.

"It's not malicious they're just setting this on fire and obviously this is going to produce a lot of toxins," says County Attorney, David Hogue.

Five days after a deadly storm ripped through Vilonia and countless piles of debris dot the landscape, but not for long.

Volunteers and cleanup crews are starting to separate materials and set fires.

Which is a scary sight for fire crews.

"The themes for this moment is please don't burn the debris," explains Hogue.

"It doesn't scare me much until I start seeing words I recognize like arsenic," continues Hogue.

The storm displaced residents shutting many off from television, radio and other typical forms of communication.

Officials hope that instead of flames, word will spread.

"We're talking a day of the black smoke and a week of just smoldering," says Hogue.

Warning of the many dangers of burning storm debris at nearly every corner.

"There may even be asbestos in some of these buildings. You may have asbestosis, you may have arsenic cyanide," explains Vilonia Assistant Fire Chief, K.C. Williams.

Fire officials say plumes of black smoke, a sign toxic chemicals are spreading into the atmosphere, have already started making people sick.

"I'm one of them, I'm an asthmatic myself. This is irritating to my breathing, irritating to my eyes...sinuses are messed up," says Williams.

Crews worry about bigger blazes spreading after dark because many are left unattended overnight.

"If this gets out of control and catches on the other burn pile, it's easy in these conditions to have a whole block burn," says Williams.

With so much work ahead, officials don't want anymore health or structural hazards to get in the way.

"Don't burn things that will release toxins in the air for your fellow storm survivors," explains Williams.

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