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Smoke from wildfire causing unhealthy air quality in L.A. Basin [Updated]

August 26, 2009 | 10:20 am

Smoke  Smoke from a wildfire burning in the Angeles National Forest blanketed much of L.A. County today, seeping into cars and offices as people began their workday and causing itchy eyes, runny noses and sneezing.

Public health officials said air quality is unhealthy throughout the county, and the top health officer recommended people take precautions when going outdoors.

“We are also advising schools 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,” Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Los Angeles County’s director of public health, said in a statement.

Public health officials also recommended Little Leagues cancel practices and people refrain from outdoor activities, such as hikes or picnics, in places where there is an odor of smoke or where soot is visible.

People with heart disease, asthma and other respiratory problems were urged to take serious precautions and stay indoors as much as possible.

According to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, air quality levels were moderate in Inglewood, Long Beach and Compton, and were unhealthy in Pomona, Santa Clarita, West Covina, El Monte and Duarte.

The agency released a smoke advisory this morning, saying the fire is severely affecting portions of the L.A. Basin and that smoke had settled into the San Gabriel Valley overnight.

“Onshore ocean breezes during the day are expected to move smoke into the mountains, and smoke impacts to the San Gabriel, Pomona and San Bernardino valleys to the east are also likely,” agency officials said in a statement.

View Morris fire in a larger map

The fire in the Angeles National Forest, named the Morris fire, had burned at least 750 acres by this morning and was 10% contained, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Lisa Lugo, a spokeswoman for the forest service, said the fire was burning in steep terrain and was not threatening any homes. No injuries had been reported, she said.

The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for mountain areas in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties.

-- Ari B. Bloomekatz

[Updated at 10:40 a.m.] TIPS FOR DEALING WITH SMOKE

-- Pay attention to local air quality reports. If advised to stay inside, keep indoor air as clean as possible. Keep windows and doors closed -- unless it's extremely hot outside.

-- Run the air conditioner if you have one. Keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent bringing additional smoke inside.

-- If you don't have an air conditioner, staying inside with the windows closed may be dangerous in extremely hot weather. In these cases, seek alternative shelter.

-- When indoors, avoid smoking and using wood-burning fireplaces, gas logs, gas stoves, candles and the vacuum cleaner.

-- If you have asthma or another lung disease, make sure to follow your doctor's directions about taking medicines and following your asthma management plan. Call your doctor if symptoms worsen.

Source: Environmental Protection Agency

Photo: Smoke from the Morris fire in the Angeles National Forest obscures the downtown Los Angeles skyline. Credit: Rick Loomis  / Los Angeles Times