Fire Smoke

Smoke from Ceder Fire is covering over the City of Porterville.

At-risk residents urged to stay indoors

Smoke flowing into the Porterville area from numerous fires around the state is not just fouling our air, it is causing serious health concerns, a local pulmonologist said.

Dr. Harprett Sandhu said he has seen an increase in patients and has seen more complications for existing patients at his practice in Porterville.

“Not only in the past few days. I have seen an increasing tend the past few weeks,” he said Thursday. 

The Cedar Fire about 30 miles southeast of Porterville is pouring smoke into the Valley and that is being mixed with smoke from the Bluecut Fire north of San Bernardino, the Chimney Fire in San Luis Obispo County and the Soberanes Fire on the California coast near Big Sur.

By mid-afternoon Thursday, the smoke was so heavy in Porterville it was like a cloudy day. By late afternoon, an orange hue was created over the city.

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District issued a health cautionary statement early Thursday. It noted the smoke is creating unusually high particulate matter and ozone levels throughout the Valley.

Cassandra Melching with the air district, said Porterville and Springville are two of the worst areas of the Valley, but other areas area also being impacted.

“It’s just not good,” she said, warning residents to stay indoors as much as possible.

“If you smell smoke and you see it, it’s definitely affecting you,” she added.

Dr. Sandhu said the fires only exacerbate already bad air in the Valley. He said he has seen an increase in patients over the past eight weeks.

For those with respiratory problems, the smoke causes immediate problems. Kelly Kestner with Pacific Pulmonary Service, a medical supply company, said they have had an increase in calls for people needing oxygen or filters for their breathing apparatuses.

“Any time you have an extended period of breathing in contaminants, it can have a negative affect,” she said.

Even those healthy patients are being affected. Melching said a tightness in the chest, difficultly breathing, dizzy, light-headedness and a scratchy throat are all signs someone is being affected by the smoke.

Dr. Sandhu said for the healthy patient, “because of stuff in the air, it can be a concern.” He said people should be aware of the symptoms.

He said the smoke is adding to the number of hospital stays and visits to the emergency room, but like the air board, he advises people to stay indoors as much as possible.

The Cedar Fire, which spread rapidly Thursday, was less than 10 percent contained, and the Bluecut fire was also less than 10 percent contained. Fire officials expect both fires to continue to burn for several more days, if not weeks. 

“The businesses and residents of the Valley have done so much to reduce summertime pollution that it is unfortunate when these wildfires overwhelm that great work,” stated Seyed Sadredin, the District’s executive director/Air Pollution Control officer. 

Smoke from wildfires produces particulate matter (PM) and contributes to the creation of ozone, which can cause serious health problems including lung disease, asthma attacks and increased risk of heart attacks and stroke. People with existing respiratory conditions, young children and elderly people are especially susceptible to health effects from these pollutants. Air District officials urge residents to follow their doctors’ orders when exposed to wildfire emissions and stay indoors if at all possible.

The District’s Real-time Air Advisory Network (RAAN) monitors are designed to detect the fine particulates (called PM 2.5 which are microscopic in size and not visible to the human eye) that exist in wildfire smoke. Residents can check the District’s wildfire page at www.valleyair.org/wildfires for information about any current wildfires and whether they are impacting the Valley. Residents can also check the nearest air monitor to their location to determine localized air-quality conditions. Visit the Real-time Air Advisory Network to subscribe for free: www.valleyair.org/RAAN.

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