A smoke advisory remained in effect Saturday due to the Woolsey Fire, which was causing unhealthy air quality affecting everyone in areas directly impacted by smoke, including central and northwest coastal Los Angeles County, the San Fernando Valley and the western San Gabriel Valley.
A growing blanket of brown smoke crept across the Southland sky on Saturday, as the fire in Los Angeles and Ventura counties grew to 70,000 acres with zero percent containment.
"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," said Dr. Muntu Davis, health officer for Los Angeles County.
"Smoke and ash can be harmful to health, even people who are healthy," Davis said. "People at higher risk include those with heart or lung diseases, children and older adults."
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Early Saturday, the smoke created an eerie, fog-like presence that extended far south along the coast, including the Marina del Rey and LAX area. That lifted by around noon, but as the afternoon wore on the sky grew gradually darker over large swaths of Los Angeles County.
Davis urged everyone in areas where there is visible smoke or the smell of smoke to avoid unnecessary outdoor exposure and to limit physical exertion, whether indoor or outdoor, such as exercise.
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 DPH officials.
The health department is "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 an smell of smoke. This also applies to other recreational outdoor activity, such as hikes or picnics, in these areas."
According to DPH, people can participate in indoor sports or other strenuous activity in areas with visible smoke, soot or ash, provided the indoor location has air conditioning that does not draw air from the outside and all windows and doors are closed.
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 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.