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No Surprise: Wildfire Smoke Is Bad For You. Here's What To Do

A massive fire cloud forms Thursday near a command center for the Cranston Fire. (Carla Javier / LAist)
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The Cranston Fire in Riverside County has pushed more than 3,000 people out of their homes. But it's not just the fire that's dangerous. The smoke that spreads to surrounding areas can also be harmful.

"Small pieces of particulate soot and matter can get deep down into people's lung passages and they can cause chronic irritation," said Cameron Kaiser, public health officer for Riverside County.

An advisory is currently in effect for Perris Valley, Anza, Hemet and San Jacinto Valley, Banning Pass, and the Coachella Valley.

If you end up in a smoke-filled area, here's some advice on how to stay healthy.

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Thinking of going outside? Don't. It's best to stay inside with the air conditioner on. And you're going to want filtered air. Many evaporative cooling systems, aka swamp coolers, don't filter the air.

Once you turn on the cool, filtered air, keep the doors and windows closed to keep the unhealthy air outside. You're also going to want to avoid vigorous activity -- anything that makes you breathe deeply.

Kaiser recommends people seek refuge in a Riverside County cooling center if they can't find a place to be in safe indoor air.


If you do have to go outside for any reason, use a N95 or P100 respirator mask. These are the kind you see people use when they work with lots of debris in the air. They keep most of the smoke particles from damaging your lungs.

Experts recommend that anyone in a fire-prone area keep such a mask in an emergency kit.


Smoke isn't the only thing that can make air quality bad.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District tracks smoke alerts, but also ozone and other pollutants that make the air unhealthy to breathe. You can sign up for alerts from their website or check the air quality forecast on the interactive map.

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