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Bad air quality, rain of ash hits Southern California

Ash falls on a parked car as the Bobcat fire burns in the distance Wednesday morning.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
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Smoke from wildfires is causing bad air and falling ash in some parts of Southern California.

Air quality officials have issued a wildfire smoke advisory for much of the region through Wednesday evening, warning, “Meteorological conditions will bring smoke and ash into portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange counties.”

The worst concentrations of smoke, which contains tiny, lung-damaging pollution particles known as PM2.5, are expected in communities closest to the Bobcat and El Dorado fires, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

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“Smoke transported from fires in Central and Northern California may also contribute to widespread elevated PM2.5 concentrations,” the district said. While air quality in much of Southern California has remained in the “good” to “moderate” level at the ground level, satellite imagery shows smoke higher up in the atmosphere over much of the region.

The district warned that the region could also see more falling ash as “larger particles settle out of the atmosphere.”

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The situation was even worse in the Bay Area, where smoke was dimming the sun and causing red and orange hues in the sky.

There were a number of fires burning across Northern California Wednesday that could play a role in darkening the region’s skies.
The August Complex fire — now the second largest fire on record in California — has burned more than 421,000 acres north of the Bay Area, in Mendocino, Glenn, Lake, Tehama and Trinity counties.

The North Complex fire, which includes the Bear fire, has burned about 254,000 acres northeast of Lake Oroville, California’s second largest reservoir. On Tuesday, the fire spread as fast as 2,000 acres per hour, spread by 45 mph winds, blowing to the southwest. That prompted preparations for evacuations in Butte, Plumas and Yuba counties, and potentially threatens the towns of Paradise and Concow, which were devastated in the 2018 Camp Fire.

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The Creek fire in the Sierra National Forest in Fresno and Madera counties has burned more than 163,000 acres, and has destroyed at least 60 single-family homes, 20 other minor structures and two commercial structures. It was burning on both sides of the San Joaquin River near Mammoth Pool Reservoir, forcing hundreds of campers to be rescued by helicopter.

The Dolan fire in the Big Sur region of Monterey County has charred more than 93,000 acres, largely in the Ventana Wilderness. A number of large wildfires in Oregon also have the potential to send smoke over Northern California.

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