Mulch Fire Smoke Prompts School Closures in Coachella Valley Unified

Mulch Fire Smoke Prompts School Closures in Coachella Valley Unified

News Staff

Smoke from a debris fire prompted the cancellation of classes at all schools in the Coachella Valley Unified School District and the closure of district offices Friday.

The decision was “made out of an abundance of caution and based on many factors including CalFire, AQMD, weather pattern, parent, student and staff input,” according to a statement on the district’s website.

The statement added “the fire and smoke conditions are beyond our control and it is difficult to predict how shifting winds will impact the air quality around our schools and community.  We will continue to closely monitor this situation in the coming days and keep our educational community informed as conditions change.”

The district said it would update the situation on Sunday.

Friday evening’s Bell Game between Coachella Valley and Indio high schools will be played at Indio High School.

On Thursday, 14 students from Desert Mirage High School were taken to a hospital with respiratory problems due to smoke the fire that has been burning since Monday, and the campus was evacuated along with two other schools.

Desert Mirage High School, Las Palmitas Elementary School and Toro Canyon Middle School were evacuated around 9:45 a.m., and all classes were canceled for the day. Fire officials initially reported that Mecca Elementary School had also been evacuated, but later said that school was not affected.

Cal Fire Riverside Capt. Fernando Herrera said Desert Mirage High School officials called 911 about 7:45 a.m., when 25 students complained of smoke-related health concerns. Of the 25 students, 14 were taken to a hospital for treatment, and the others were released to their parents or guardians, fire officials said.

The majority of the health concerns were minor, with the exception of three students who suffered from preexisting respiratory issues, such as asthma, Herrera said.

The 40-acre mulch fire was reported at 4:32 p.m. Monday near 66th Avenue and Martinez Road at the Sun Valley Recycling Center. A smoke advisory for portions of the Coachella Valley was issued Tuesday by the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

On Wednesday, the Bureau of Indian Affairs ordered an immediate halt to dumping operations at the Sun Valley Recycling Center, where several mulch fires have erupted in recent months. If the dumping operations are not immediately halted, the owner will face an injunction and be held liable for damages and all costs associated with enforcement action.