No decision made regarding the North Fort Myers mulch fire

Lee County and MW Horticulture faced off Tuesday in a hearing about what to do with the pile of burning mulch in North Fort Myers.

The pile has been burning for days and neighbors are tired of the back and forth between the County and the family in charge of the recycling business.

MORE: Who is responsible for the mulch fire in North Fort Myers?

The community is still waking up to smokey haze and they don’t care who is responsible, they just want the mess cleaned up.

But no decision has been made yet between the two options presented: moving a significant amount of debris offsite in the next two months or waiting 6-8 months until they can stifle the fire.

MW Horticulture turned the tables in the meeting saying that Lee County is hurting their family-owned company and endangering the community by not taking action.

“At first it was to service the community, and allow our customers, FEM and FDOT seven-days-a-week service, and that’s what they required. It the turned into processing and now it’s fire watch,” Denise Houghtaling with MW Horticulture said.

First, by asking them to take on debris from multiple government agencies.

“The State Department of Environmental Protection said I could do it,” Houghtaling said.
“And the State Department of Transportation was asking to do it.”

Next, by not allowing them to grind up the debris, and hurt their family name.

“This entire event has tarnished our reputation. It has destroyed our relationship with the County and government officials,” she said.

Lee County said that storing the debris they way it is now is a blatant violation of fire code, putting human lives at risk and is impacting people’s health.

Chief Nisbett says “it’s ridiculous.”

The County says that MW Horticulture’s plan of smothering the fire for 6-8 months with dirt is putting everyone in danger, especially with the dry season on it’s way.

But the hearing examiner said either option is a tragedy for nearby families and businesses.

The examiner is sifting through the testimony and the North Fort Myers community will have to wait in the meantime for an answer and a solution to their smokey sky.

Reporter:Anika Henanger
Writer:Emily Luft
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