The California wildfires are still raging as of today, December 11th, after the first sparked on December 4th. According to CNN, the largest of the fires, the Thomas Fire, currently covers 230,000 acres and has caused mass evacuation, power outages, and property loss. As a result of the Southern California wildfires, the air quality in affected areas is incredibly poor. Some counties have issued health warnings.
According to the Air Pollution in California: Real-time Air Quality Index (AQI) Visual Map, Santa Barbara county is currently experiencing “Very Unhealthy” air pollution levels. The county’s AQI reading is at a high 206, which warrants “Health warnings of emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected,” the AQI chart reads.
The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and County Air Pollution Control District issued a health warning through December 9th and 10th, according to local news KEYT. As the fires continued to spread, the department noted that poor air quality conditions will last for the next several days.
Neighboring areas of Goleta and Ojai are also experiencing massive spikes in air pollution due to the fires. They’re currently ranking in the “Unhealthy” AQI category, and residents may begin experiencing health effects.
Inhaling smoke from the wildfires can cause damage to your respiratory system, and particles from the smoke can hurt your eyes. Because homes and cars are also being burned, those in affected area should take note that toxic fumes are likely accompanying the smoke.
Smoke inhalation can cause coughing and phlegm, irritated sinuses, shortness of breath, a tight or painful chest, headaches, and a runny nose.
Respirator masks labeled N95 or N100 can provide some relief from smoke particles but will not keep you safe from harmful fumes and gases. Remove yourself from smoke polluted areas and follow government instructions in order to stay as safe as possible.