Fifteen students from Desert Mirage High School were hospitalized Thursday and four Thermal-area schools were evacuated due to smoke-related issues stemming from a nearby debris fire that has been burning since Monday.
Desert Mirage High School, Las Palmitas Elementary School, Toro Canyon Middle School and Mecca Elementary School were evacuated around 9:45 a.m, according to Cal Fire Riverside Capt. Fernando Herrera.
Herrera said Desert Mirage High School officials called 911 around 7:45 a.m., when 25 students complained of smoke-related health concerns. Of the 25 students, 15 were taken to a hospital for treatment.
The majority of the health concerns were minor, Herrera said, with the exception of three students who suffered from preexisting respiratory issues, such as asthma.
The mulch fire, which burned 40 acres, was reported at 4:32 p.m. Monday near 66th Avenue and Martinez Road at the Sun Valley Recycling Center. The fire is 20 feet high but fully surrounded, Herrera said, and crews were working to spread out the mulch to allow water to penetrate the fire.
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.