EASTERN COACHELLA VALLEY – A special county taskforce working to prevent mulch fires in the eastern Coachella Valley has traveled to 50 sites in Mecca, Oasis, Thermal and Vista Santa Rosa to investigate possible illegal or unpermitted accumulation of green waste — in its first year of operation,.

To date, 20 properties have been found in violation and issued notices of violation. Six were referred for litigation, with five coming into compliance and one pending court action. Seventeen were inspected and found not to be in violation.

green waste

Mulch piles can break out into fires, as seen in the recent “58 Fire” in Vista Santa Rosa.

Property clean-ups have resulted in the removal of approximately 5,645 cubic yards of green waste, an amount that could fill 1.7 Olympic-size swimming pools.

Established in July 2019, the Riverside County Combustible Materials Taskforce focuses on expediting the clean-up of parcels with green waste before they cause fires, unhealthy smoke and harmful environmental effects. As the taskforce looks to its second year, it continues to enhance its education efforts and enforcement process to make an even greater impact in the coming year.

“Mulch fires have been a major public safety concern in the eastern Coachella Valley for too long, and that’s why we formed this team to prioritize getting sites cleaned up and enforced as strictly as possible,” said Supervisor V. Manuel Perez. “Bringing an end to these fires and illegal dumping takes a long-term effort, and I appreciate the progress, the awesome job by our county team, and the support of our fellow Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, Congressman Raul Ruiz and Torres-Martinez Tribal Chairman Thomas Tortez.”

The agencies on the taskforce are the Riverside County Code Enforcement Department, Riverside County Fire Department, Riverside County Department of Environmental Health and the Riverside County Office of County Counsel. The taskforce identifies and inspects properties in the county’s jurisdiction with green waste piles, and prioritizes the clean-up of these cases, from working with the owners to enforcement action.

Green waste includes tree trimmings, palm fronds, grass clippings, manure, mulch and compost. If green material is left in piles, over time, under certain conditions, there is a high potential that it can generate enough heat as the material decomposes to spontaneously ignite.

This summer, there have already been incidents of small mulch piles catching fire in the eastern Coachella Valley. In June, a larger mulch fire, on 20 acres of private land on Avenue 58 and Van Buren Street in Vista Santa Rosa, burned for days and sent smoke across the Coachella Valley.

The taskforce provides informational brochures in English and Spanish to educate community members on green waste fire prevention and green waste disposal sites.

Land owners are responsible for green waste applied to or found on their land. Owners can take steps to immediately lessen fire risks, including taking the material for proper disposal at a permitted facility and making sure green material is spread to a height of no more than 12 inches.

To report illegal dumping in progress, call the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department at 760‑836‑3215.

To refer a property to the taskforce for inspection, contact the Riverside County Code Enforcement Department at 760-393-3344.

Lead photo caption: Riverside County Code Enforcement Supervisor Lorena Diaz discusses the work of the taskforce at a community meeting.

Image Sources

  • Mulch piles: Supervisor Perez's office
  • Riverside County Combustible Material Taskforce Public Outreach: Supervisor Perez's office