Smoke from the Woolsey Fire as seen from Santa Monica.

Editor’s Note: This story originally ran Nov. 10. It is republished here as part of our year-end coverage.

Wind conditions shifted Saturday aiding firefighters who are battling the Woolsey fire but also covering Santa Monica with smoke and ash.

Dangerous Santa Ana winds fueled the explosive fire Thursday/Friday helping it consume 70,000 acres and kill at least two people. Those wind conditions changed Saturday shifting onshore and bringing hazy conditions to Santa Monica. Locals were advised to remain indoors with their windows closed, seek shelter if outside and avoid unnecessary physical activity.

“It is difficult to tell where ash or soot from a fire will go, or how winds will affect the level of dust particles in the air, so we ask everyone to be aware of their immediate environment and to take actions to safeguard their health,” said Muntu Davis, MD, MPH, Health Officer for Los Angeles County. “Smoke and ash can be harmful to health, even people who are healthy. People at higher risk include those with heart or lung diseases, children and older adults.”

Wildfire smoke is a mixture of small particles, gases and water vapor. The primary health concern is the small particles. These small particles can cause burning eyes, runny nose, scratchy throat, headaches and illness (i.e., bronchitis). In people with sensitive conditions, they can cause difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, fatigue, and/or chest pain.

“We are also advising schools and recreational programs that are in session in smoke-impacted areas to suspend outside physical activities in these areas, including physical education and after-school sports, until conditions improve. Non-school related sports organizations for children and adults are advised to cancel outdoor practices and competitions in areas where there is visible smoke, soot, or ash, or where there is a smell of smoke. This also applies to other recreational outdoor activity, such as hikes or picnics, in these areas,” said Dr. Davis.

The City of Santa Monica has cancelled all community and cultural service activities for Saturday.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said falling ash could also be a problem. Any food items left uncovered should be thrown out if they’ve come into contact with ash. Sealed items should be fine provided their containers are wiped clean before opening.

When conditions are safe for residents to begin cleanup, they are encouraged to wear gloves and long sleeved shirts, use disposable masks with a rating of N-95 or better and gently sweep surfaces before following up with a wet mop. Never use a leaf blower or shop vacuum for ash disposal.


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