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Smoke from Saddleridge fire blankets L.A., bringing unhealthful air quality

The 5 and 14 freeways were closed by the Saddleridge fire in Newhall on Friday.
The 5 and 14 freeways were closed by the Saddleridge fire in Newhall on Friday.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times )

Most Angelenos can’t see the Saddleridge fire, but they have been breathing it as a dirty blanket of smoke settled over much of the city and raised air pollution levels.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District on Saturday issued a health advisory, urging people to limit their exposure to the smoke by remaining indoors and avoiding vigorous physical activity.

District monitors showed elevated levels of particle pollution throughout the San Fernando Valley, in the western areas of Los Angeles and coastal areas west of the 110 Freeway.

In Santa Monica, the weekly farmers market and other outdoor events were canceled because of the smoke and poor air quality.

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A shift in the winds Saturday night and Sunday morning could push the smoke across much of the Los Angeles Basin and eastward as far as the San Bernardino Valley. The health advisory was expected to remain in effect through Sunday morning.

The fire is burning in hills bordering the northern edge of the San Fernando Valley. The fire’s growth slowed Saturday as winds diminished. As of Saturday evening, the fire had charred more than 7,900 acres and damaged or destroyed at least 31 buildings.

It was 33% contained.

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By late morning Friday, the Saddleridge fire in the San Fernando Valley had exploded to 4,700 acres and burned 25 homes.

Smoke from wildfires contains extremely fine particles that can lodge in the lungs, potentially causing serious health problems.

Here are some tips for dealing with wildfire smoke from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Monitor air quality reports during a fire if you are:

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  • a person with heart or lung disease, such as heart failure, angina, ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema or asthma.
  • an older adult, which makes you more likely to have heart or lung disease than younger people.
  • caring for children, including teenagers, because their respiratory systems are still developing, they breathe more air (and air pollution) per pound of body weight than adults, they’re more likely to be active outdoors, and they’re more likely to have asthma.
  • a person with diabetes, because you are more likely to have underlying cardiovascular disease.
  • a pregnant woman, because there could be potential health effects for both you and the developing fetus.

High concentrations of smoke can trigger a range of symptoms.

  • Anyone may experience burning eyes, a runny nose, cough, phlegm, wheezing and difficulty breathing.
  • If you have heart or lung disease, smoke may make your symptoms worse. People with heart disease might experience chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath or fatigue. People with lung disease may not be able to breathe as deeply as usual and may experience coughing, chest discomfort, wheezing and shortness of breath.
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