Coachella Valley school district cancels classes for a fourth day due to mulch fire

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THERMAL (CNS) – Coachella Valley Unified School District campuses will be closed again Wednesday due to continuing air-quality concerns stemming from an ongoing mulch fire in Thermal.

CVUSD’s 22 schools were closed Friday, Monday and Tuesday due to the smoke hazards posed by the blaze near the intersection of Avenue 66 and Martinez Road. Officials said schools would remain shut down Wednesday for the same reason.

Meanwhile, the South Coast Air Quality Management District again renewed its smoke advisory for the area, keeping it in place through Wednesday afternoon. The advisory covers Thermal, La Quinta, Mecca and communities near the Salton Sea.

“Overall, meteorological conditions may bring smoke and ash into portions of the Coachella Valley,” according to the AQMD. “Air quality may reach unhealthy for sensitive groups or higher in areas directly impacted by smoke.”

On Thursday, 14 students from Desert Mirage High School were taken to a hospital with respiratory problems due to the smoke, and several schools were evacuated. Classes were canceled district-wide on Friday.

The 20-acre fire at the Sun Valley Recycling Center has been burning since Oct. 14. Riverside County firefighters were making progress knocking down the blaze, which is not threatening any structures.

CVUSD officials said they will “continue to monitor the situation and work with AQMD and EPA as they monitor the levels on our school sites.”

The AQMD installed an air monitor at Toro Canyon Middle School in Thermal, about a quarter-mile from the fire, and the public can view the level of particulate matter in the air in real time at xappprod.aqmd.gov/SMSDataSite

6:10 p.m. Tuesday: This story was updated to indicate classes were cancelled for Wednesday.