Smoke from new development forces some Truesdale residents from their homes

By Jason Koch, Editor
Posted 11/2/23

Smoke from a new housing development in Truesdale, Missouri, forced some residents to evacuate their homes, city officials said.

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Smoke from new development forces some Truesdale residents from their homes


Some Truesdale residents were forced to evacuate their homes on Oct. 23 because of severe smoke coming from the site of a new housing development in the city.

The issue was discussed during the Oct. 25 board of aldermen meeting.

What happened, according to Mayor Jerry Cannon, was that the developer of the site along Pinckney Street had clear cut trees and were burning it, which caused an intense fire.

“The flames were probably 30 or 40 feet high and the smoke just billowed down South Street,” he said.

He said at least four families had to evacuate their homes because of the smoke.

The wind that morning was out of the east-northeast. The previous day, Oct. 22, the wind was so bad there was a no burn order in place.

The developer did receive an OK from Missouri DNR to burn on Oct. 23.

The burns continued on Oct. 24, and Cannon said the city received even more complaints.

That led Cannon to contact the fire department, the fire marshal, Warren County EMA and more.

“I got as many people on deck as I could to try to figure out what we could to stop the burning,” he said. “On Tuesday, the smoke was intense. It was unbreathable at times on South Street.”

The property is owned by George Heath, and the company responsible for the burning was Lamke Trenching and Excavating out of Marthasville.

Heath attended the Oct. 25 meeting to discuss what happened.

“I’m here to look at options here,” Heath said.

“It was bad,” Cannon responded. “I live on South Street. And all down our street, it was so bad that people had to leave their homes.”

Cannon also told Heath that issues remain following the incident.

“My house is so bad that the curtains, my furniture are permeated with smoke,” Cannon said. “It was horrific.”

“I apologize for that,” Heath said.

Another South Street resident affected by the smoke was also in attendance at the meeting.

“I had to leave because I could not really breathe in my own home, and my house is sealed all the time because of allergies,” Robin McConnell said. “I could not breathe in my own home. And my neighbor next door has asthma and she already has problems with just the fall stuff, but she was sick because of it. She was having problems breathing.”

“Again, I apologize,” Heath said. “This was not our intent. We were trying to just burn it up as quick as we could and haul off the root balls.”

Heath said part of the smoke issue was caused because some of the material was still green.

“There was enough dry material in there. There were no rubber tires or anything, no diesel fuel or anything,” Heath said. 

The smoke issue was not just limited to residents living on South Street, according to Alderwoman Kari Hartley.

“I live halfway down Conrad, which is almost basically across the town of Truesdale and everything in my backyard, all of my outdoor furniture, was covered in ash,” she said. “My daughter’s car was covered in ash. We assumed that because there was so much ash at our house that something was being burned in the mobile home park behind us. But then when I came home and found that it’s clear over here, it was a lot. So I can’t imagine living right in this area.”

Heath apologized again.

“What we’re afraid of, it has so many cedar trees in it that if we let them dry, then they will blow further,” he said. “So we’re trying to get rid of the green material as much as we can.”

Aldermen asked if it was possible for the material to be hauled off and burned at a different location, but Heath said that would be difficult.

“It’s such a large amount of material to haul it off, it’s the feasibility of that,” he said. “There’s nine or 10 acres of woods that were there. I just have no way to know where to haul it and get rid of all that material.”

“I’m in agreement that you have to burn it, but I just think it’d be safer for everybody if it wasn’t 20 foot tall piles and they didn’t burn six of those 20 foot piles at once,” McConnell said. “I mean, if they used a little wisdom and a little common sense, there wouldn’t be so much smoke.”

Cannon did emphasize that the city did not believe Heath or Lamke intended to cause such a severe problem.

“I don’t believe the intent was there, but our biggest thing is we have to look out for public safety,” Cannon said. “I’ve known you long enough to know that you’re not wanting to hurt anybody.”

Heath said he would work with Lamke to find a better way to dispose of the on-site material. 

“And maybe contact City Hall the day you’re going to do it so they can put a word out on Facebook and warn the residents just to be aware in advance,” Alderman Mike Thomas said.

Cannon said he did appreciate Heath appearing at a meeting so quickly after the incident. The city has an ordinance that gives individuals a 10 day notice to appear after an incident.

“I did appreciate this,” Cannon said. “He was here this evening on short notice. They could have just said, ‘well, give us a notice, we’ll be there at least 10 days after it.’ But the fact that he showed up today, I have never known Mr. Heath to be anything but responsive. In all fairness, he’s on top of most things. There’s no way he meant for that to happen.”

The burning resumed the morning of Oct. 30, a day when it was reported the wind was out of the northwest. A large plume of smoke could be seen from Interstate 70. 

The city said no additional complaints were received.

About the author: Jason Koch is the editor of The Warren County Record, and covers local news and government for the newspaper. He has won multiple awards from both the Indiana and Illinois APME and from the Illinois Press Association. He can be reached at 636-456-6397 or at

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