A smoke advisory was in effect Tuesday due to the Woolsey Fire, which was causing unhealthy air quality affecting everyone in areas directly impacted by smoke, including coastal Los Angeles County, the San Fernando Valley, the Santa Clarita Valley and the San Gabriel Mountains.
“As residents begin to return home and start cleaning after being evacuated, they are more likely to come in contact with ash and soot, especially in areas that were close to or damaged by the fire. Please remember that smoke and ash can be harmful to health, even for people who are healthy,” said Dr. Muntu Davis, Health Officer for Los Angeles County. “If you can see smoke, soot, or ash, or you can smell of smoke, pay attention to your immediate environment and take precautions to safeguard your health. These precautions are particularly important for children, older adults and people with heart or lung diseases.”
As of midday Tuesday, the fire — which began last Thursday — was estimated at 96,314 acres. Firefighting officials said the fire is larger than the city of Denver and is officially the largest fire on record for Los Angeles County, with records dating back more than 100 years.
The blaze was 35 percent contained, with full containment expected by Sunday
Winds of 25 to 35 mph were forecast for Tuesday with gusts of 40 to 45 mph, National Weather Service Meteorologist Joe Sirard said. Those wind speeds are likely to drop to 25 to 30 mph Tuesday night into Wednesday with gusts to 40 mph.
The NWS extended its red flag warning through 5 p.m. Wednesday for the Woolsey Fire area in Los Angeles and Ventura counties — except Malibu, where the warning is set to expire at 5 p.m Tuesday. High temperatures of 70s to low 80s are predicted through Wednesday.
“We are also advising schools and recreational programs that are in session in smoke-impacted areas to suspend outside physical activities in these areas, including physical education and after-school sports, until conditions improve,” Davis said. “Non-school related sports organizations for children and adults are advised to cancel outdoor practices and competitions in areas where there is visible smoke, soot, or ash, or where there is a smell of smoke. This also applies to other recreational outdoor activity, such as hikes or picnics, in these areas.”
Children and people who have air quality-sensitive conditions, such as heart disease, asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases, should follow the recommendations and stay indoors as much as possible, even in areas where smoke, soot or ash cannot be seen or there is no smell of smoke, according to county health officials.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District said disposable respirators labeled as N-95 or P-100 can offer some protection if worn properly and tightly fit, but officials cautioned that even residents with respirators should limit their exposure to smoke as much as possible.
Residents should not rely on paper “dust masks” for protection from smoke, as they do little but block large particles, such as sawdust.
Wildfire smoke is a mixture of small particles, gases and water vapor, and the primary health concern is the small particles, which can cause burning eyes, runny nose, scratchy throat, headaches and bronchitis, health officials said. In people with sensitive conditions, the particles can cause difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, fatigue, and/or chest pain.
DPH offered the following recommendations:
— If you see or smell smoke, or see a lot of particles and ash in the air, avoid unnecessary outdoor activity to limit your exposure to harmful air. This is especially important for those with heart or lung disease (including asthma), the elderly and children.
— If outdoor air is bad, try to keep indoor air as clean as possible by keeping windows and doors closed. Air conditioners that re-circulate air within the home can help filter out harmful particles.
— Avoid using air conditioning units that only draw in air from the outside or that do not have a re-circulating option. Residents should check the filters on their air conditioners and replace them regularly. Indoor air filtration devices with HEPA filters can further reduce the level of particles that circulate indoors.
— If it is too hot during the day to keep the doors or windows closed and you do not have an air conditioning unit that re-circulates indoor air, consider going to an air conditioned public place, such as a library or shopping center, to stay cool and to protect yourself from harmful air.
— Do not use fireplaces (either wood burning or gas), candles, and vacuums. Use damp cloths to clean dusty indoor surfaces. Do not smoke.
— If you have symptoms of lung or heart disease that may be related to smoke exposure, including severe coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness or pain, palpitations, nausea or unusual fatigue or lightheadedness, contact your doctor immediately or go to an urgent care center. If life-threatening, contact 911.
— When smoke is heavy for a prolonged period of time, fine particles can build up indoors even though you may not be able to see them. Wearing a mask may prevent exposures to large particles. However, most masks do not prevent exposure to fine particles and toxic gases, which may be more dangerous to your health.
— Practice safe clean-up following a fire. Follow the ash clean-up and food safety instructions at bit.ly/SafeFireCleanup.
The following is recommended for pets:
— Avoid leaving your pets outdoors, particularly at night. Pets should be brought into an indoor location, such as an enclosed garage or a house.
— If dogs or cats appear to be in respiratory distress, they should be taken to an animal hospital immediately. Symptoms of respiratory distress for dogs include panting and/or an inability to catch their breath. Symptoms for cats are less noticeable, but may include panting and/or an inability to catch their breath.
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