There already have been brush fires around O’Neals, Millerton Lake, Porterville and Fresno. Residents are fleeing flames in Southern California. With dry grasslands and forests after another subpar wet season, this could be a very ugly fire season.
The immediate concern is danger to residents, firefighters and homes. Air quality is a secondary concern, but it’s worth noting because it can become a wider public health concern. Pay attention to the warnings from air authorities.
Remember June 2008? There were thousands of fires sparked by lightning. Columns of smoke drifted into the San Joaquin Valley from many directions.
For about a week, dirty air simultaneously breached both the ozone and particle pollution standards. The double whammy happened again in July 2008, though it wasn’t as bad as that June episode.
Fires are known for soot or particle pollution, which can make the air hazardous to breathe. Ozone-creating gases also come from fires. It’s no coincidence that 2008 was the last time the Valley had more than 125 breaches of the ozone standard.
Ozone is a corrosive gas that damages the lungs. Over time, it can create a kind of scarring in lung tissue, health researchers say.
Soot is considered to be PM-2.5, microscopic pollution that evades the body’s defenses and sometimes passes from the lungs into the blood stream.
Older people, small children and folks with lung or heart problems should stay indoors when they hear the warnings from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.