Pictured: Obscured by smoke a DC-10 air tanker drops Phos-Chek fire retardant in Santa Paula during the Maria Fire on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. Photo by Kimberly Rivers.

Maria Fire wrap-up, Phos-Chek mop up?

 Last Thursday, Oct. 31, as crews contained the Easy Fire in Simi Valley, a new fire started on top of South Mountain in Santa Paula. The Maria Fire would ultimately burn just under 10,000 acres and destroy four structures. As of press deadline the fire is 95% contained.

During the fire fight, crews dealt with unique challenges due to the steep and remote terrain sloping down into agricultural lands and residential communities. According to a Ventura County Fire Department radio broadcast (timestamp 9:24 p.m., Oct. 31) all fire lines were told to focus on protecting mature avocado orchards due to their potential to “yield high volume of money.”

By the next morning, fixed-wing air tankers dropped a red fire retardant called “Phos-Chek” along the foothills of South Mountain to help keep the fire from spreading. The red substance now coats streets, cars, houses and, in some cases, avocado and citrus orchards.

“We are still looking into this, but recommend people do not consume anything with Phos-Chek on it,” said Ed Williams, Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner, via email to the VCReporter. “From the studies done on toxicity, it appears to be very low. Basically it seems to be fertilizer with some additives for spreading and sticking. I would definitely recommend that any produce should be thoroughly cleaned before use, and if it can’t be cleaned, people should avoid eating it.”

While the fire was active, information about the compound was posted to vcemergency.com, but has since been removed. That information stated:

Phos-Chek Clean-up

Chemicals used to fight fires contain toxic materials and can contaminate food and cookware. The chemicals cannot be washed off the food. Foods that are exposed to chemicals should be thrown away.  


  • Phos-Chek is designed to rinse off with running water. Wet the retardant down, wash it away, wait 15 minutes and repeat, and it should come off.
  • If Phos-Chek sticks to surfaces like a roof, wood or sidewalk, a soft bristle brush or a biodegradable cleaner can be used to help speed its removal.
  • To remove it from your skin, wash with gentle soap and water.

Do Not:

  • Do Not use a high pressure power-washer, which can push the product further into surfaces like stucco or concrete. If it’s deeply embedded, it may not come out.
  • Do Not use hard brushes or stiff bristles to scrub it off, for the same reason.
  • Do Not use bleach or harsh chemicals to clean decks, outdoor furniture or homes. Harmful fumes can result.
  • Do Not Leave Phos-Chek standing in puddles or pools, where pets or wildlife might drink it.  After the rains, be particularly vigilant.  Fill with sand, soil or other absorbent material that can be removed if necessary.

Oxnard company awarded $17M defense contract

The U.S. Department of Defense has announced that Oxnard-based Advanced Structural Technologies Inc. (AST) has been awarded a U.S. Army contract valued at $17,643,500 to “manufacture and supply M1 Abrams tank aluminum road wheel inserts.” The contract covers work performed through Oct. 21, 2021.

Wheel inserts are essentially the wheels of the tank that rotate the track the tank moves on. The wheels bear the weight and pressure of the vehicle and stress of the speed.

Camarillo teacher wins $50,000 grant

Peter Wachtel, a teacher at Adolfo Camarillo High School in Camarillo, has won a $50,000 grant for the school as part of the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools program that recognizes teachers from across the country who go above and beyond for their students. He teaches Architecture and Product Innovation and Design, classes which incorporate real-world experience working with companies into student projects.

Oxnard public art grant program deadline — Nov. 26

Proposals are currently being accepted for Arts in Public Places (AIPP), a program of the city of Oxnard’s Cultural Arts Commission. Submissions will be accepted until 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 26.

Grants are available for specific projects or operating costs. Oxnard-based arts organizations and new and established (over seven years) artists are eligible, and artist collaboratives also qualify. All applicants must attend a grant workshop on Nov. 14 or 16. Applications will be reviewed by a panel of artists and advocates who will make a recommendation to the Cultural Arts Commission for formal submittal to the Oxnard City Council, who will ultimately award the grants.

Grant recipients are expected to be announced in January 2020.

Details, eligibility and application are available online at www.oxnard.org/cultural_arts or by calling Julie Estrada at 805-385-7995.