How fires impact air quality and what experts say helps

With wildfires like the Bobcat Fire burning across the West Coast, smoke is having an impact across the country.
LOS ANGELES, Calif. (KABC) -- With fires scorching the West Coast, air quality has been a concern.

The Bobcat Fire burning above Sierra Madre blew smoke across Los Angeles County, forcing residents indoors. And with other wildfires across the West Coast smoke is reaching as far as New York, according to the National Weather Service.

"We have seen these types of levels before, when you're very close to one of these wildfires, but we've never seen it this widespread," said Dr. Philip Fine with South Coast Air Quality Management District.

Dr. Fine says that there is a smoke plume that's almost 2,000 miles wide now covering the entire Western United States because of all of the fires happening between Washington and Southern California this month.

Dr. Fine said that fires produce a lot of smoke, creating particulates that if inhaled can cause lung and heart issues. While these particles are also produced from cars and factories, wildfires are uncontrollable.

"What leads to a lot of these high air pollution levels that we're seeing is generally these stagnant air conditions where the pollution is trapped close to the ground, we call that an inversion layer," said Dr. Fine.

The inversion layer spreads out the smoke across the Southland acting like a cap, and in turn the smoke cannot travel outside of the atmosphere, according to experts.

To help people stay safe from these fires and poor air quality the South Coast Air Quality Management District recommends staying indoors, keeping the doors and windows closed, and running your air conditioner if it has a filter.

Most of all, if you see or smell smoke or ash then try to avoid exposure.

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