Experts: No major health risks from poor air quality from Salt River landfill fire

People with lung/breathing issues should still stay indoors however.
Some East Valley residents woke up smelling smoke from a landfill fire on the Salt River Indian Reservation that sparked over the weekend.
Published: Sep. 30, 2023 at 4:14 PM MST|Updated: Oct. 3, 2023 at 9:49 AM MST

SALT RIVER INDIAN RESERVATION, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Firefighters from several East Valley fire departments are assisting Salt River crews battling a fire that first started Saturday afternoon just off the Beeline Highway and Gilbert Road. Arizona’s Family viewers reported seeing the black smoke from the fire in parts of Scottsdale, Tempe, and Mesa.

According to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, crews were able to regain control of the fire and contained it to a mound of green waste within the landfill. As of Tuesday morning, efforts continue to put the blaze out, but no other information has been released, and it’s unclear how the fire sparked. However, there was something distinctly noticeable in the air across Scottsdale and parts of Phoenix when folks walked outside in the morning. Not everyone could see it but you could smell it.

“I stepped out of my garage, and it smelled really bad, like a toxic smoke,” said Joan McCue, a Phoenix resident. Miles away, Wyatt Rogers from Scottsdale noticed something similar. “I walked out to the patio - it smelled like someone was burning and something,”

Social media was flooded with comments Monday about the strange smoky smell and where it was coming from. The Scottsdale Fire Department cleared the air with a post that said, “A landfill fire broke out over the weekend on the Salt River Indian Reservation. While authorities said there was no immediate threat to the public, Valley residents could expect lingering smoke.”

While most of the blaze was out by Monday, there was still some smoldering, which everyone was smelling. Neighbors Katie Meccia and Dan Vroeger are happy it wasn’t someone’s house that went up in flames.

“The smell was too strong to be a house fire. It didn’t smell like a house. Maybe a building burning, maybe bigger than that. I’m glad it wasn’t a house,” said Meccia.

What precautions do I need to take?

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality says while no air quality advisories have been issued, those with respiratory issues should stay indoors.

This fire and all the smoke it created could impact people’s health, particularly those with pre-existing conditions. The American Lung Association tells Arizona’s Family that even though most of the smoke is gone - symptoms may not show up for another 24 to 48 hours. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality says those with lung issues should remain indoors and close windows if at all possible.

“If they are starting to feel some wheezing or shortness of breath difficulty taking in a breath, they need to be cognizant of the fact there is smoke nearby and if they are having these symptoms,” said Stacey Mortenson with the organization.

Anyone with information on the fire or who needs assistance should contact the Salt River non-emergency dispatch at 480-850-9230.

Map showing where a fire is burning on the Salt River Indian Community near Mesa, Arizona.
A landfill fire is burning on the Salt River Indian Community near the Beeline Highway and Gilbert Road.(azfamily)

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