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Thermal mulch fire 50% contained but still sending smoke throughout the Coachella Valley

Live update from our 5 p.m. newscast

Cal fire said several mulch fires were still burning near the area of Avenue 58 and Van Buren Blvd in Thermal Thursday morning, but the fire was 50% contained and was expected to create air quality hazards for the Coachella Valley for a second day.

Cal Fire says the fire was reported shortly before 11 a.m. Wednesday morning. Roads in the area of Avenue 58 were closed to allow firefighters to access the flames.

According to Jeff LaRusso, public information officer for Cal Fire / Riverside County Fire Department, 12 homes were immediately evacuated due to the proximity to the fire.

About 20 Imperial Irrigation District electrical customers lost power
due to an intentional shut-off by the agency in response to the blaze.

By 1:15 p.m., the fire had grown to approximately 5 acres. Imperial Irrigation District was requested to shut off power in the area of the incident.

As of 4:00 p.m., the fire grew to 8 acres and was 26% contained. Approximately 20 customers were affected by the power outage. By 5 p.m., the fire expanded to 12.4 acres.

Captain Fernando Herrera said there is a potential the fire could grow to 20 acres.

The fire was 50% contained Thursday morning. Crews from the Palm Springs and Cathedral City fire departments were called in to assist with the firefighting effort.

Sunbus was also assisting Wednesday by sending over a bus for firefighter rehab and cooling.

The mulch fire was creating a lot of smoke in the area and people were asked to avoid the area while crews battle the blaze. A drift smoke advisory for the Coachella Valley was issued at 2:20 p.m. Wednesday.

According to Cal Fire, the drift smoke would be visible for the next 24 hours.

From Palm Springs Fire:

"CAL FIRE/Riverside County Firefighters, with assistance from Cathedral City FD and Palm Springs FD, responded to reports of a vegetation fire in the area of Van Buren Street cross of Avenue 58 in Thermal. Firefighters are on-scene of a vegetation and mulch fire"

Check back for updates.

Rich Tarpening

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