Thick Mulch Fire Smoke Drives Familes Out of Ontario Neighborhood

A stubborn mulch fire that broke out in Ontario over the weekend continued to smolder Monday, sending a thick blanket of smoke into the air that posed a health hazard for nearby residents, officials said.

"It is absolutely horrible," said resident Laura Quevedo, who lives near the smoking mulch yard. "I can't deal with it. It's been really bad. I just stepped outside right now and it's not too different from inside."

Two families have left their homes because of the smoke, and more said they were considering leaving.

"Hopefully we don't have to leave but at this point it's kind of looking like it's going to happen," Quevedo said.

Ontario fire officials advised residents to stay out of the smoke, especially people with pre-existing health conditions.

"Our recommendation would be at this point for citizens in the area to limit their outside activities and try to stay inside as much as possible keeping their windows and doors closed," said Ontario Fire Department Battalion Chief Mike Pelletier.

Workers continued to douse hot spots with water, but officials said it could take two or three days to completely extinguish the flames, which broke out Saturday night in an agricultural area at Chino and Grove avenues.

Residents hoped a rain storm that hit the region Monday would help put out the fire for good.

"Three days of breathing this stuff. As you can imagine it's just headaches," said resident David Segura.

Pelletier said the fire department received calls about the smoke from people as far away as Orange County.

The green waste mulching facility where the fire began lost a small hay barn and two small sheds, Ontario Police Department officials said.

Gusting Santa Ana winds made it difficult for firefighters to get a handle on the blaze.

Police said the type of mulch being produced at the yard can spontaneously heat up and catch fire due to strong winds. The official cause of the fire remained under investigation.

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