CAMARILLO (CBSLA.com) — Smoke and ash from the Camarillo Springs Fire and several other fires burning throughout Southern California could pose a health threat to some residents, health officials warned Friday.
Air quality advisories were in effect for Ventura County due to a combination of high winds, smoke and ash, but Ventura County Public Health (VCPH) officials said not everyone who is exposed to thick smoke will have health problems.
VCPH officials urged residents in areas near or downwind from the fire to exercise caution and stay inside their homes, bring pets inside, keep windows and doors closed, use air conditioners on the recycle or re-circulate mode and avoid vigorous physical exertion both indoors and outdoors.
At the first sign of discomfort, individuals should relocate to another area that is smoke-free, officials said.
But Sam Atwood with the Air Quality Management District (AQMD) told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO that the windy weather may actually be protecting residents from some of the more dangerous elements in the air.
“The Santa Ana winds that have been giving firefighters such a tough go of it in fighting the fire are actually driving most of the smoke into the ocean and away from the populated areas,” Atwood said.
However, Atwood cautioned that an onshore flow expected later this afternoon could increase the risk of smoke being brought back into the Greater Los Angeles basin.
Residents near Laguna Farms – located less than a mile from Cal State Channel Islands – were faced with a possible hazardous materials scare after pesticides and fertilizer caught fire at the agricultural facility.
Ventura County Fire crews eventually brought the fire under control, and Atwood said any toxins in the air were unlikely to pose a threat to the public.
“Hopefully, with the relatively small number of buildings that have been consumed, that any toxic materials had been widely dispersed,” he said. “Of course, for firefighters or anyone who was very close to the scene, yes, that would be a concern, but for the general population, those toxins should have been well dispersed.”
Residents – especially those with chronic lung or heart conditions – were urged to avoid exercising outdoors. Anyone who develops symptoms such as shortness of breath, wheezing, exhaustion, lightheadedness or chest pain with decreased activity are advised to stop all activity and seek medical attention.