Northern California fires’ smoke spreads to Los Angeles


Illustration by Sydney Fener

Alex Hahn

A layer of smoke  blanketed the Los Angeles area Thursday and Friday, but according to the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD), the massive wildfires raging in North and Central California are its source, not any local fire.

One such fire in Shasta County, the Fawn Fire, has burned approximately 9,000 acres of land, prompting thousands of evacuations as well as the response of numerous firefighters. Although Cal Fire reported the blaze to be 60% contained, it still completely destroyed 144 structures and threatened thousands more.

The National Weather Service predicts gales to push the smoke eastward and out of the Los Angeles region over the weekend, but the South Coast Air Quality Management District still issued a special air quality order, in effect  through Friday, Sept. 24. Residents are advised to be vigilant about the air quality, close all windows and doors, and run air conditioning to preserve the clean air in their homes.

The regions whose air quality is expected to be impacted include the San Jacinto, San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountains, and the advisory warned the air quality index (AQI) in affected areas “may reach Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups levels or higher from Thursday afternoon until Friday afternoon.” Young children and pregnant women, as well as the elderly and those with pre-existing heart conditions, are among the most vulnerable to the polluted air.

Mac Bailey ’23 said he hopes those affected by the smoke can remain healthy, especially those whose lungs and respiratory systems are particularly susceptible.

“People who have COVID-19 are already experiencing a strain on their lungs, and this could be worsened by the incoming smoke,” Bailey said. “It’s good that a special air quality order was issued so that the young, the elderly and people with COVID-19 know to take the necessary precautions.”

The air quality in Studio City was estimated to be at AQI values of 53 and 54 on Thursday and Friday respectively, with both days falling into the “moderate” category.

Chris Spencer ’23 said he was initially shocked at how widespread the effects of the wildfires were.

“When I first noticed [the haziness], I was confused because I wasn’t aware of any urgent local fire at all,” Spencer said. “But when I learned it was the smoke from the other wildfires hundreds of miles away, I was reminded of how dangerous [they] could be. It’s pretty crazy to think about.”

However, Spencer also said he was grateful that the Studio City area would be affected both minimally and for a brief period of time.

“We already have enough to worry about with COVID-19 and all the safety protocols, so I’m glad the school community won’t be impacted too much,” Spencer said. “It’d suck if school shut down, even if just for a little. I feel like I lost so much time last year, and I want to get as much of that back as possible.”