Coachella Valley schools to be closed for fifth day due to mulch fire

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THERMAL (CNS) – Students at Coachella Valley Unified School District campuses will get one more day off due to continuing air quality concerns stemming from a mulch fire in Thermal, before school resumes on Friday.

The district’s 22 schools have been closed since Friday 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 Thursday for the same reason.

“While there will continue to be smoke until the fire is extinguished, studies by the EPA have shown that the smoke is not hazardous. People who suffer from sensitive medical conditions should continue to follow their doctor’s advice. As a result of this information, CVUSD schools will reopen on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019,” district officials said in a statement.

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

“On Wednesday evening into the overnight hours, winds are expected to come from the west, pushing smoke towards Mecca. On Thursday morning, winds are predicted to be from the north, pushing smoke to the south towards Borrego Springs,” AQMD officials said.

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.

The 35-acre fire at the Sun Valley Recycling Center has been burning since Oct. 14. Riverside County and Bureau of Indian Affairs fire crews are using heavy equipment, such as bulldozers, excavators and water tenders in their efforts to move the burning mulch around so that it can cool down.

The fire is at 50% containment as of this afternoon, said Bureau of Indian Affairs Fire Chief Ray Ruiz.

Some school staff will return to their campuses on Thursday to prepare for the return of students, according to district officials.