Riverside County

Saddleridge Fire Leads to Poor Air Quality, Tips on Staying Healthy

The Department of Public Health advises that schools avoid outdoor activities until air quality improves.

A smoke advisory issued as the Saddleridge Fire continues to burn through Los Angeles County will remain through Monday, according to the LA County Department of Public Health.

The advisory, first announced by the South Coast Air Quality Management District on Thursday when the Sandalwood and Reche Fires began, warns of unhealthy air quality in parts of the West and East San Fernando Valley, the Santa Clarita Valley and the San Gabriel Mountains. The advisory previously cautioned that areas of Riverside County were also at similar risk.

The Department of Public Health provided several recommendations for safety through a news release, particularly for residents returning to their homes after being evacuated.

"We ask everyone to remember that smoke and ash can be harmful to health, even for people who are healthy," said Muntu Davis, Health Officer for Los Angeles County, in the release. "If you can see smoke, soot, or ash, or you can smell 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."

The Department of Public Health is also advising that school or recreational activities normally held outdoors be suspended until air quality improves. Indoor sports and similar activities should be safe, if doors and windows are closed and the air conditioning unit does not draw air from outside.

The small particles in wildfire smoke can cause burning eyes, headaches and illness, including bronchitis. For people sensitive to smoke, they can cause difficulty breathing, fatigue and chest pain. The elderly, children and people with a heart or lung disease are particularly vulnerable to smoky air.

The Department of Public Health's tips to avoid the effects of unhealthy air quality include:

  • Avoid unnecessary outdoor activity if smoke is detected.
  • Keep windows and doors closed and run the air conditioner only if it draws air from the house.
  • Check the filters on air conditions and replace them regularly (air filtration devices can reduce the level of harmful particles).
  • If it is too hot during the day and no air conditioning unit that draws from the house is available, consider going to a public place with air conditioning, such as a library or shopping center.
  • Do not use fireplaces, candles or vacuums. Use a damp cloth 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, difficulty breathing, chest tightness or pain, palpitations, nausea or unusual fatigue or lightheadedness, contact your doctor immediately or go to an urgent care center. If the symptoms are life-threatening, contact 911.
  • Wearing a mask may protect from exposure to large particles. However, fine particles and toxic gases, which may be more dangerous, are not filtered by most masks.
  • Avoid leaving pets outdoors, particularly at night.
  • If dogs or cats show signs of respiratory distress, such as panting or an inability to catch their breath, take them to an animal hospital immediately.
  • For tips on cleaning up safely after a fire, follow the department's guide at http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/docs/ReturningHomeAfterAFire.pdf.
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