Supervisor Perez Praises Progress on Martinez Fire
THERMAL – The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs Wildland Fire Management, working cooperatively with CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department, Riverside County Transportation & Land Management Agency and South Coast Air Quality Management District, has made significant progress in the extinguishment of the Martinez Fire.
All agencies are working together in the best interest of the public to ensure that the fire is mitigated completely. There are no conditions that warrant evacuations.
“I want to commend our Riverside County Fire Department and the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the progress they’ve made on the mulch fire,” said Supervisor V. Manuel Perez. “The immediate response and coordination brought in resources to assist the community and make sure the fire didn’t expand beyond its initial boundary within the recycling facility site. I also thank the Bureau of Indian Affairs for continuing efforts to extinguish the fire, the tribal nations that sent fire support, and our county agencies that have been helpful. Even though this fire is on tribal land, Riverside County will assist and use its resources to protect the safety of our constituents, especially our most vulnerable.”
The fire started Oct. 14 on tribal land near the intersection of Avenue 66 and Martinez Road in the community of Thermal.
Due to the significant scale of the mulch piles burning, it has been a labor-intensive and slow process to mitigate the fire, requiring numerous heavy equipment resources such as bulldozers, excavators, skip loaders, water tenders, dump trucks and fire engines.
“We will continue to assist from a coordination and support role as needed and work cooperatively with all County, State, Federal and Local agencies to help mitigate and reduce potential life hazards from the Martinez Fire” said East Desert Division Chief Robert Fish.
As the extinguishment efforts continue, the southeastern Coachella Valley and other valley areas continue to experience drift smoke from the Martinez Fire.
The smoke layer is caused by a temperature inversion in which warm air “caps” cooler air, causing smoke to become trapped in valley bottoms at night and in the early morning. The trapped smoke generally begins to lift after the sun rises and heats the Earth’s surface. Inversions are also stronger and more common during the winter months.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District deployed an air monitor to the school complex, home to three schools located a quarter-mile away from the fire.
The public can access near real-time air quality data at: https://xappprod.aqmd.gov/SMSDataSite/Home/AdminIndex?MonitoringSiteId=13
Riverside County Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser has offered the following precautions
• Residents should avoid any vigorous outdoor or indoor exertion.
• Those with respiratory or heart disease, older adults and children should remain indoors.
• Windows and doors should be closed.
• Run your air conditioner if you have one and keep the fresh air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent bringing additional smoke inside.
• Avoid using a swamp cooler or whole-house fan to prevent bringing additional smoke inside.
• To avoid worsening the health effects of smoke, don’t use indoor or outdoor wood burning appliances, including fireplaces.
Parents should contact the Coachella Valley Unified School District for updates on school closures at 760-399-5137. For updates on the status of the Martinez Fire, please contact Captain Fernando Herrera at 951-355-4059 or Chief Ray Ruiz at the Bureau of Indian Affairs at 951 675 6763.
This recycling facility site has had reoccurring issues with dumping and burning for many years. Prior to this incident, Supervisor Perez brought county departments together to discuss these issues with representatives including Representative Raul Ruiz, the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians and State Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia’s office. Given that the County of Riverside has no jurisdiction over tribal land, Supervisor Perez is advocating for federal action to get the site cleaned up or for an enabling role for the county to enforce against violations.
“When school is being canceled, and youth are ending up in the hospital due to higher levels of pollution in the air, the appropriate jurisdictions need to act,” Perez said.