Woolsey Fire Smoke Generating Unhealthy Air Quality; Smoke Advisory in Effect in Areas of L.A., Ventura Counties

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The Woolsey Fire burning along the Ventura and Los Angeles County border is causing unhealthy air quality for people in areas impacted by its smoke, the L.A. Department of Public Health said Friday.

The Woolsey Fire, which began Thursday afternoon, has grown to 14,000 acres, promoting road closures and thousands of evacuations across of cities along the border between the two counties.

Plumes of smoke from the fire are visible for miles, aerial video showed.

A smoke advisory is in effect wherever you can smell smoke in northwest coastal areas Los Angeles and  western San Fernando Valley, the department said in a news release.

Ash and dust is being carried all the way to Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, prompting South Coast Air Quality Management District officials issued an advisory in those areas.

People are advised to avoid unnecessary outdoor exposure and limit exercising. This recommendation is even more critical to people who have conditions such as heart disease, asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases, L.A. County Health Officer Muntu Davis said.

"It is difficult to tell where ash or soot from a fire will go, or how winds will affect the level of dust particles in the air, so we ask everyone to be aware of their immediate environment and to take actions to safeguard their health," Davis said in a news release. "Smoke and ash can be harmful to health, even people who are healthy."

Health officials said people with heart or lung diseases, older adults and children are at higher risk of health problems due to the bad air quality.

The department is advising schools still in session to take the same precautions by suspending outside activities until conditions improve.

Non-school related organizations are also advised to cancel outdoor activities if there is smell of smoke, visible smoke, soot or ash.

Wildfire smoke is made up of small particles, gases and water vapor. Health officials said the small particles are the primary health concern because they can cause bronchitis, burning eyes, headaches, runny noses and scratchy throats.

People with sensitive conditions can also experience difficult breathing, wheezing, coughing, fatigue and chest pain.

L.A. health officials released other recommendations that will help you protect yourself and others from harmful effects of the poor air quality:

  • 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, please 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 http://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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