While the Morris fire burns, protect your health and stay indoors


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Usually we’re big fans of going outside and getting some exercise and fresh air, but not today.

Smoke and ash from the Morris Fire north of Azusa have bumped air quality up to “unhealthy” levels throughout much of the Southland, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District. As of this morning, high levels of fine particulate matter have spread as far west as downtown Los Angeles. Most of the smoke is concentrated in the San Gabriel, Pomona and San Bernardino valleys, and ocean breezes are expected to blow more of it there during the day, the AQMD says. Air quality is only “moderate” throughout much of the rest of Los Angeles County, including the entire coastline from Long Beach to beyond Malibu.


That means people of all ages should limit their outdoor activity, especially vigorous exercise. If you see or smell smoke, it’s best to head back indoors, as Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Los Angeles County’s health officer, told LAist this morning:

“It is difficult to tell where ash or soot from a wildfire will go, or how winds will affect the level of dust particles in the air, so we ask all individuals to be aware of their immediate environment and how it might affect their health.”

In a statement, he added:

“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.”

Even those of us in tip-top physical shape are vulnerable to smoke, ash and fine particles. In its Fire Safety Tips, the AQMD reminds us that:

“These particles, which are invisible to the naked eye, bypass our natural defense system and lodge into our lungs. They can cause irritation, and over the long-term cause decreased lung function. They also make us more susceptible to developing diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and possibly cancer.”

When will it be safe to go back outdoors? You can follow the Morris fire here to see how much acreage has burned and how close firefighters are to getting it fully contained. For updates on local air quality, check out this AQMD map, which is updated hourly.


For a comprehensive report on how to exercise outdoors safely under smoky or smoggy conditions, check out this story from our Health section archives. The American Lung Assn. also offers this advice for keeping your lungs healthy during wildfire season.

-- Karen Kaplan