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FIRESTORM: A FOULED ATMOSPHERE

Air on the side of caution, folks

If you can see or smell smoke, don't stay outside breathing it. Get indoors; stay put.

November 16, 2008|Ari B. Bloomekatz and Esmeralda Bermudez | Bloomekatz and Bermudez are Times staff writers.

As wildfires flared across Southern California this weekend, health officials issued air-quality warnings and told residents to avoid areas where they could smell and see smoke.

"What we're forecasting is that the air quality will be unhealthy for everyone" in Sylmar, Corona, Brea and Yorba Linda, said Sam Atwood, a spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

"When air quality is unhealthy for everyone, that means not just those who are sensitive for smoke and smog, but everyone. They need to not exercise vigorously outdoors. And if you're indoors, stay indoors," Atwood said.

Rose Barush, 79, said she was evacuated from her Granada Hills home before 6 a.m. Saturday and had been sneezing ever since.

"I'm sneezing and coughing. It makes me feel icky, like I want to escape from it," Barush said while sitting on a cot at San Fernando High School, one of the evacuation centers.

Los Angeles County public health officials warned residents to take precautions and advised that some sports organizations, notably youth leagues, take the day off.

"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," said Public Health Director Jonathan E. Fielding, quoted in a news release from the county.

Some other tips from Los Angeles County officials to help cope with bad air:

* Avoid unnecessary outdoor activity.

* Do not use fireplaces, candles and vacuums.

* When indoors, keep windows and doors closed. Air conditioners can remove particles from the air, but if residents do not have an air-conditioning unit and are getting too hot, they should consider going somewhere with air conditioning. The county warns residents not to use air conditioners that draw in air only from the outside and do not have a recirculating option.

* Don't smoke.

--

ari.bloomekatz@latimes.com

esmeralda.bermudez @latimes.com

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