Southern California

Strong Odor Hits LA County in Wake of Maywood Fire

Intense smell described as "like a burning tire."

When Paulette Jorrisset stepped out of her Reseda home Tuesday morning, she was hit was by an intense, chemical smell.

"I took one little whiff and it just came over me. I immediately closed my door and windows and started contacting people," she said.

Residents all over the Southern California area felt the after-effects of a fire through a pungent odor that settled over the region. Another resident, Justin Adams of Sherman Oaks, described the scent “like a burning tire, a plastic-y smell.”

The fire began around 2:30 a.m. at a plastics business in the 3700 block of Fruitland Avenue. A smoke advisory was released late morning by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, advising residents to avoid unnecessary outdoor exposure and to limit physical exertion.

Air quality officials are reporting poor air quality in the central, south central and southeast portions of LA County.

South Coast Air Quality spokesman Sam Atwood said they have received around 35 complaints regarding the smell and smoke. Atwood said air quality officials took air samples in areas around the fire and are currently testing the samples for dozens of metals and constituents. The results will be coming out in the next couple of days.

One of the metals already identified by the LA Fire Department is magnesium, which is the main contributor to the metallic smell in the air this morning, according to Dr. Cyrus Rangan, director of the Bureau of Toxicology and Environmental Assessment for the LA Department of Public Health.

“Magnesium is difficult to manage. Water can react with it, causing it to heat up and burn longer. That’s why putting out the fire is taking a lot longer than usual,” Rangan said.

Rangan said the best thing residents can do is to listen to the warnings and follow them. He also said it’s not required to stay indoors, but a reasonable measure to stay safe.

The odor is not expected to be toxic outside of evacuation zones, though long-term exposure could cause irritation, said Rangan. For now, air quality officials are taking a “broad, cautionary approach” to the situation by issuing the smoke advisory.

Though Adams, in Sherman Oaks, said the smell has improved throughout the day, he said he wishes there had been more information this morning by officials to let him know if it was safe to be outdoors.

“I still haven’t really heard anything, whether or not it’s safe. One of my kids was at daycare today at a park, so she was just outside running around in it,” he said.

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