How to stay safe as smoke, horrible air quality choke Southern California

A bicyclist rides along the 1st Street Bridge as a layer of smoke hovers east of downtown in Los Angeles.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Smoke from numerous wildfires has created poor air quality in many parts of California.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District has warned that smoke and ash are probably blanketing much of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties because of two major fires in Southern California as well as several Northern California blazes.

The air district’s smoke advisory said that most of Southern California will be affected by smoke, with the highest readings of fine-particle pollution, tiny lung-damaging particles known as PM2.5, in areas closest to the Bobcat and El Dorado fires.


So how to protect yourself?

Here is some general advice from the Air Quality Management District, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:


  • Stay indoors, if possible.
  • Keep windows and doors closed.
  • Check local public health alerts and the Southern California air quality map.
  • Find an air-conditioned place, like a designated L.A. County Cooling Center.
  • People with heart or lung disease (including asthma), the elderly and children should take extra precautions as they may be more likely to experience poor health if they breathe in wildfire smoke.
  • Avoid vigorous physical activity.
  • Run your air conditioner if you have one. Make sure it has a clean filter and that it is recirculating the indoor air to prevent bringing additional smoke inside.
  • Create a clean air space in your home by using a portable air cleaner instead of or in addition to your air conditioner. Do this in one or more rooms with the doors and windows closed.
  • Avoid using a whole-house fan or a swamp cooler with an outside air intake.
  • Avoid using indoor or outdoor wood-burning appliances, including fireplaces and candles.
  • Do not rely on dust masks for protection. Paper “dust masks” can block large particles such as sawdust, but do not protect your lungs from the small particles or gases in wildfire smoke. Disposable respirators such as N-95 or P-100 respirators can offer some protection if they are worn properly and have a tight fit.

Breathing in smoke can have immediate health effects:

  • Coughing
  • Trouble breathing normally
  • Stinging eyes
  • A scratchy throat
  • Runny nose
  • Irritated sinuses
  • Wheezing and shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches
  • An asthma attack
  • Tiredness
  • Fast heartbeat

More resources: L.A. County | CDC