Its been over a month since the Martinez Fire broke out in Thermal. Hot spots continue to smolder as fire crews work to extinguish it completely.
The issue itself has been going on for years. Officials are now vowing to stop illegal dumping in the area for good-- an issue that lead to the fire igniting in the first place.
"It’s going to be locked. Not going to be anymore accessibility in here. There's not going to be anymore dumping in here," Bureau of Indian Affairs Fire and Aviation Chief Ray Ruiz said. “We’re going to be closing the gate.”
The decision follows a month-long effort to put out the Martinez Fire for good. It ignited on October 14th, and continues to smolder. An investigation is now underway after authorities suspect arson.
"The majority of the time we’re not able to find anything because by the time we get here, that cause and origin is gone. It’s burnt," Ruiz said.
"An arsonist may have come out and lit the fires but none of this should have been here in the first place," Acting Chairman of the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Tribe, Joseph Mirelez said.
Friday the scene looked much different than it did a few weeks ago. More crews were on site then, spraying hot spots with foam, and turning the hot mulch. Much of it is now flattened.
A sprinkler system is now being brought in to put the hot mulch out once and for all.
"It’ll start out in one area that’s ready to go and then as we get other areas ready and prepped, the sprinkler system will get moved over there," Bureau of Indian Affairs Public Information Officer Celeste Prescott said.
The end is near and some are highlighting the hard work from those on the front lines.
“The role our CalFire firefighters Riverside County are, in my opinion, the true heroes that came out here," Riverside County Supervisor Manuel Perez said.
Perez says acknowledges a solution to the issue itself is long overdue.
"I think that I’m part of the blame to be honest with you. I think I could do more, and I’ll take responsibility. I think other leadership can do more," Perez said.
Moving forward, Perez says it's time to do something now. He's vowing to banned with local agencies and Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz to create a long-term strategy.
Meanwhile, the Martinez Fire in 98 percent controlled, meaning there are still some hot spots. Officials expect to have it completely out by sometime next week.
They are urging people to also report illegal dumping.