Smoke cancels outdoor sports

GLENDALE — High school sports coaches canceled practices Wednesday amid a round of air quality advisories from county health officials as a major fire in the Angeles National Forest continued to pour smoke into the valleys below.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health issued a poor quality air alert as the Morris fire burned to nearly 750-acres as of Wednesday afternoon above Azusa. The odor of smoke lingered throughout surrounding cities, including Glendale for much of the day.

Due to the poor visibility and unhealthy air, county health officials advised schools within the affected areas to suspend outdoor sports and physical education. They also recommended that non-related school sports programs and recreational outdoor activities also be canceled.

“If you have visible smoke or an odor of smoke, the best thing is to avoid any unnecessary outdoor activities,” said Jonathan Fielding, director of public health and county health officer.

Coach Tom Gossard had to cancel his Crescenta Valley High School girls' tennis practice from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Wednesday due to the smoke, which for most of the day had blocked the Los Angeles skyline from view.

“It's just too bad,” he said. “It's worse today than it even was all last year.”

If the smoky, air conditions continue today, Gossard said the suspension would likely continue.

“The air has to get better for us to practice,” he said. “Heat doesn't bother us, but not being able to breathe does.”

Fire officials were attempting on Wednesday to get a handle on the blaze, which ignited at 4:27 p.m. in the San Gabriel Canyon near Morris Dam. The fire, which was fueled by medium brush and chaparral, was only 10% contained late Wednesday, according to U.S. Forest Service.

“I would imagine until this fire goes out, we won't be practicing,” Gossard said.

Crescenta Valley High Coach Tony Zarrillo also canceled football practice from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. due to the substandard air quality.

“We decided it would be in our best interest not to practice,” he said.

But Zarrillo said the team will likely resume practice today, which is expected to see improved air quality conditions, said Sam Atwood, a South Coast Air Quality Management District spokesman.

Still, smoke conditions will be reviewed in the early morning to determine if that prediction will stand, he added.

People with underlying health conditions are most at risk during smoky conditions because it can put an extra stress on the body, Fielding said.

“But anybody can get a cough and irritation because you have a lot of noxious gases and small particles that can get into the lungs,” he said.

Public health officials cautioned against any strenuous outdoor activities, such as hiking, during the smoky conditions, and suggested people forgo picnics and other outdoor leisure activities.

?VERONICA ROCHA covers public safety and the courts. She may be reached at (818) 637-3232 or by e-mail at

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