The wildfires spreading in California have become so bad that in some counties affected, people are waiting in long queues to buy face masks to protect themselves from the ill effects of bad air quality brought by the fires.
Residents scramble to collect masks as smoke and ash from the Thomas fire affected the air quality in the Californian city Carpinteria.
One grandmother named Gloria Rivera even rushed to a shopping center after she read about masks distribution in Facebook. She was there to buy for herself, her husband, two grandchildren and even her pet chihuahua named Mamba. She said: “I’m gonna try and put it on him.”’
There were voluntary evacuations in the area where Rivera lives, and the grandmother left home on Wednesday as the precaution but decided to return right the following day to check on her house.
The air quality has been a concern for many residents, even those that are not directly affected by the fires. Volunteers with the Community Response Team distributed green masks to residents. Organizers say they have about 3,000 pieces of masks they plan to hand out, both for adults and children.
So terrible is the air quality that hospitals across Southern California are reporting high numbers of patients showing up in the emergency rooms complaining of breathing problems due to the wildfires that first broke out this week.
Health officials in counties like Ventura, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara also issued warnings about high pollution levels because of smoke. Medical experts say the microscopic particles that are found in smoke can penetrate deep into people’s lungs that can create dangers especially for those who already have heart or lung problems such as asthma, emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Campuses are also affected including UCLA campus where classes were canceled after losing power. The Skirball fire has already burned 475 acres.
Malibu and Santa Monica health officials are also advising people to stay indoors. Inhaling smoke can cause chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing.
Officials also warned about particularly terrible air quality in the San Fernando Valley.