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Health leaders warn Port St. Lucie residents of air quality due to mulch fire

Fire could continue to burn several more weeks
Posted at 6:39 PM, Sep 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-11 18:39:16-04

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Heath officials with the Florida Department of Health St. Lucie (DOH) are warning residents of the smoke that is being caused by the mulch fire in western Port St. Lucie.

The blaze began back on August 25 when lightning struck the area near Rifle Range Rd. and Glades Cutoff Rd., according to the St. Lucie County Fire District.

Smoke coming from the fire could possibly worsen asthma and other chronic lung and heart conditions, according to the DOH.

The fire could continue to burn for several more weeks.

St. Lucie County Fire District officials say the water supply in the area of the fire is low and ineffective due to the fire's size.

The material of the 28-acre fire piles as high as 30 ft. and is buried up to 20 ft. below grade.

Fire Chief Nate Spera said the Fire District does not possess land clearing equipment to manage the site.

"“Aside from practical concerns, placing our firefighters on the mound for limited ineffective extinguishment would expose them to unnecessary risk, raise significant safety concerns, and moreover would not be an effective tactic in managing the slow burning fire," said Chief Spera.

Regulation of the type of land falls to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, according to Spera.

He said his department is working with the landowner to help expedite the mitigation of the fire.

The Florida Department of Health recommends that residents do the following in order to stay safe from the hazardous air particles.

  • Pay attention to local air quality reports, news coverage or health warnings related to smoke,
  • Avoid prolonged outdoor activities. This is especially important for children and persons with pre-existing medical conditions,
  • Stay indoors and run your air conditioner if you have one. Keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent bringing additional smoke inside. For best results, run the air conditioning with recirculated air,
  • Help keep particle levels lower inside. When smoke levels are high, try to avoid using anything that burns, such as wood fireplaces, gas logs, gas stoves, candles, and cigarettes. Do not vacuum, which may stir up particles already inside your home.

"The closer you get to the fire, the higher and higher those levels go," said Pulmonologist, Dr. Mark Pamer. "Levels under 12 are pretty healthy. Yesterday we were at 55."
The maximum level on the air quality index scale is above 300.