Firefighters are battling a growing mulch fire burning near Thermal Monday afternoon.
The fire is burning near 66th Avenue and Martinez Road, according to the California Highway Patrol. Cal Fire reports the fire was first reported at approximately 4:32 p.m.
As of 6:10 p.m., the fire has grown to 20 acres and is 0% contained. Cal Fire advises that residents with sensitivity to drift smoke should stay indoors.
This area has seen recurring mulch fires all year long, prompting local Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz to call for an investigation with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Families, students, and staff at three schools near 66th and Martinez have expressed concerns over what they may be breathing.
“I would be in class and everything would be good and then I’d come out of class and it would just be smokey and I would just start coughing. I would go into my other class and I would get a headache,” said Landon Torres, a Sophomore at Desert Mirage High School.
Thomas Tortez, Chairman of the Torres-Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians, says the fires are happening at a green waste recycling facility on a man’s private land within the reservation.
The tribe is trying to work with BIA to prevent further mulch fires.
This is the second fire burning this afternoon in the East Valley.
Crews are also battling a 65-acre fire on the 82900 block of Johnson Street in Oasis, right by the Salton Sea.
The fire ignited at around 1 p.m. and has the potential to grow to 300 acres, according to Cal Fire.
Stay with News Channel 3 for continuing coverage on both fires.