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Community concerned over Martinez Fire smoke despite EPA reporting air is ‘nontoxic’

The Martinez Fire in Thermal continues to smolder and emit smoke into the air.

Just yesterday the Environmental Protection Agency released information saying that there is no evidence proving that the smoke is toxic or dangerous.

Residents who live and work in the community remain concerned over their health.

“It’s all day, all night. I work long shifts, even when I get out at night I can still smell it,” Coachella resident Maria Elias said.

Elias says the smoke manages to travel to where she lives.

“It’s been pretty bad. I can’t even go outside, walk with my baby. My boyfriend has allergies, so it’s been difficult for him to be breathing; swollen eyes and it’s pretty upsetting,” Elias said.

The mulch fire ignited last Monday at the Sun Valley Recycling Center. According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, it is only 50 percent contained.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a smoke advisory on Wednesday, October 23rd through Thursday, October 24th.

The Riverside County Department of Public Health issued a statement saying in part:

“Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency stressed that there is no evidence the fire is burning dangerous of toxic material. An EPA survey did not detect any toxic chemicals in the air in the school.”

“How about they bring their kids over here and see what they say? That’s what I think. It smells like almost cigarettes sometimes,” Elias said.

Alice Bueras works as a security guard in Mecca. She says she’s been getting headaches everyday by the time she gets home.

“I only come out when I need to. I have to do my rounds. I’ll go around and then go back in,” Bueras said.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs is head of the operation. They’ve been working closely with several agencies, including the EPA, to get the latest information out.

“[The smoke] is within normal ranges for outdoor standards. There is smoke there and that smoke is going to remain there probably for a couple weeks,” Bureau of Indian Affairs Public Information Officer, Robyn Broyles said.

The BIA is cautioning residents to limit outdoor exposure.

“Our guidance to our public is to stay indoors as much as possible and to keep themselves away from the smoke as much as possible,” Broyles said.

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