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Smoke from a compost fire in Kings County hits surrounding communities

Submitted photo.
Kochergen Farms Composting Inc. sign in Kings County.

Windy conditions sparked a fire in a composting plant in Kings County on Monday. The fire is still burning. Residents in nearby communities are concerned about the smoke's impact on their health. 

Maricela Mares-Alatorre lives in Kettleman City and works for Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice. She says she first smelled hints of the fire on Monday, on her drive home from her daughter's dance class. The next morning, she says, it was worse. 

“This smell persisted and it was all through the house, all our cars” she says. “When you turn on the AC, the smell comes through the car. It's just so strong.”

She says she followed the smoke to Kochergen Farms Composting, Inc., an organic compost facility 20 minutes north of Kettleman City. Jaime Holt with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District says the district has been in contact with the company about the fire. 

“They've been working around the clock to get the fire contained by both moving the material, which is one of the ways that you spread it out, and also applying both dirt and water to the piles,” she says. 

Holt says the company has to put out the fire slowly in order to mitigate the amount of smoke produced. Still Mares-Alatorre, who suffers from asthma, says the smoke  will have lasting impacts on the community’s health. 

Kochergen Farms did not immediately respond to a request for comment.