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Crews Predict End to Compost Fire

March 18, 2001|TRACY WILSON

VENTURA — A stubborn compost fire burning for a week at the PictSweet Mushroom Farm on Olivas Park Drive could be out by tonight.

That was the prediction issued Saturday by the Ventura County Fire Department, which was working around the clock to smother the smoldering blaze.

Crews using heavy equipment to spread and mix the burning compost into an adjacent farm field were moving ahead of schedule and had extinguished more than 70% of the fire by Saturday evening, officials said.

Still, public health officials continued to recommend that people in areas affected by the smoke cut back on strenuous outdoor activities.

The three-acre fire started March 11 in a large pile of straw and horse manure used to grow mushrooms. The compost produced enough heat to ignite a fire, which sent pungent smoke drifting into neighborhoods across western Ventura County.

Fumes sent at least one area resident to the hospital for breathing problems and others to emergency rooms for itchy eyes and sore throats.

The fire forced the closure of the Olivas Adobe and prompted officials at nearby schools to restrict outdoor activities.

The company could face fines of $1,000 to $50,000 a day for creating a public nuisance, regulators said.

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