An East Valley mulch fire that broke out nine days ago continued to burn Wednesday and was 50 percent contained, according to CAL FIRE Captain Fernando Herrera.
The fire broke out near 66th Avenue and Martinez Road, at 4:32 p.m. on October 14.
The air quality issues created by the blaze have prompted a 4-day closure of Coachella Valley Unified School District schools. The first closure on October 18 came a day after 14 people at Desert Mirage High School had to be treated due to smoke-related ailments.
The smoke prompted the evacuation of hundreds of students from DMHS, Toro Canyon Middle School, and Las Palmitas Elementary. It also forced the Victory Bell game between Coachella Valley and Indio to be moved to Indio.
CVUSD Superintendent Dr. Maria G. Gandera issued the following statement about the fire’s impact on the area and schools on Tuesday:
“As the District continues to work closely with the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) , BIA, and CalFire, we will be closing the District for one more day, Wednesday, October 23, 2019. We will continue to monitor the situation and work with AQMD and EPA as they monitor the levels on our school sites. We will update everyone by Wednesday evening. We thank everyone for their continued understanding and support.”
JFK Medical Center donated 15,000 smoke masks to the Galilee Center in Mecca to help anyone affected by the smoke as the fire continues to burn in the east valley.
Area students have been vocalizing their concerns about the recent uptick in mulch fires even prior to the Martinez Fire breaking out.
“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.
On October 16, Ruiz announced that the Sun Valley Recycling Center, the aforementioned green waste recycling facility, was being shut down.