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Two Mecca elementary schools respond to chemical warning following fire

The Riverside County Department of Environmental Health released a chemical warning impacting two schools in the east valley.

It’s all due to a brush fire at the intersection of Avenue 64 and Dale Kiler Road, which burned down 15 acres of grape stakes Thanksgiving Day.

Read: Firefighters contain vegetation fire in Mecca

As a precaution, the Department of Environmental Health is recommending Saul Martinez Elementary, Mecca Elementary and neighboring communities to sanitize any outdoor equipment.

“I was thinking of not sending them to school because we don’t know sometimes they don’t wash their hands,” said Bernice Solis, whose four children attend Mecca Elementary School.

Solis said the school officials called her and told her, “that they already washed out everything, and that it was fine to send them to school.”

A spokesperson with the Coachella Valley Unified School District said, “We hired and supervised a contractor to clean both schools per the recommendations of the county Environmental Health Department. Schools were cleaned yesterday.”

Lisa Mitchell, an environmental health scientist with Riverside County said there hasn’t been a confirmed chemical release but the grape stakes may have burned chemicals like copper, chromium and arsenic.

Read: County issuing environmental alert after Mecca fire

“Immediate or acute impact would be dermal irritation, nose, throat lung irritation, coughing, burning eyes, and that can also be from the fire,” Mitchell said. “Chronic effects would be toxicity and carcinogenics, so cancer causing.”

Environmental health staff have taken wipe samples of surfaces and results will be available next week.

Until those results are released they are warning people in the area to clean any outdoor equipment such as swing sets, bicycles, barbecue or pet dishes with disinfectant.

KESQ News Team


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