Mulch fire contained, but haze, odor wafts across Valley skies

Jun 1, 2023, 8:59 AM | Updated: 11:24 am

(Twitter Photo/@MesaFireDept) (Twitter Photo/@MesaFireDept) (Twitter Photo/@MesaFireDept) (KTAR News Photo/Jim Cross) (KTAR News Photo/Jim Cross) (Twitter Photo/@MattPaceWeather)

PHOENIX – The haze and burning odor that blanketed parts of the Phoenix area Thursday is the remnant of an East Valley mulch fire that broke out the previous day, authorities said.

Matthew Pace, an air quality meteorologist with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, said smoke from the fire just north of Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport mostly stayed above the surface overnight.

“But as it started to break this morning, some of that smoke did actually loop down toward the surface, especially from about northwest Mesa stretching over to Piestewa Peak, but the good news is that smoke will lift later on this morning so air quality will begin to improve,” he told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Thursday morning.

Rural Metro Fire said the incident, believed to be the result of spontaneous combustion, started around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in a mulch pit near Elliot and Sossaman roads. The agency said Thursday the fire was contained but the smoke will be present for several days.

Pace said air monitors aren’t showing anything near federal health standards, but people sensitive to smoke might want to take precautions.

“If you’re smelling smoke, you’re breathing smoke,” Pace said. “So this morning if you’re smelling smoke, limit your outdoor activity, avoid exertion outdoors and close your windows, run your AC.”

Pace also said pollution advisories and watches for high ozone unrelated to the fire will be in effect for the region in through the weekend.

“If you are sensitive to ozone this weekend, certainly plan to limit your outdoor activity as ozone levels will be high, and if you want to help the cause, certainly try to drive as little as possible, … reduce the amount of idling that you have, reduce your own personal emissions to help the Valley all breathe a little easier,” he said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Martha Maurer contributed to this report.

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Mulch fire contained, but haze, odor wafts across Valley skies