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Fires affect health

La Verne firefighters pay their respects to Fire Captain Tedmund Hall as the Los Angeles County fire department motorcade passes under Wheeler Bridge over the 210 Freeway on Sept. 4. Captain Tedmund Hall and Firefighter Specialist Arnaldo Quinones died trying to find a safe exit from Firefighting Camp 16 during the Station Fire. There will be a formal memorial service at 10 a.m. Saturday at Dodger Stadium. / photo by Rafael Anguiano

La Verne firefighters pay their respects to Fire Captain Tedmund Hall as the Los Angeles County fire department motorcade passes under Wheeler Bridge over the 210 Freeway on Sept. 4. Captain Tedmund Hall and Firefighter Specialist Arnaldo Quinones died trying to find a safe exit from Firefighting Camp 16 during the Station Fire. There will be a formal memorial service at 10 a.m. Saturday at Dodger Stadium. / photo by Rafael Anguiano

Charlie Neff
Staff Writer

It seems as if Southern California is the only place on earth that has a season solely for fires.

As the devastating fires of the past two weeks die down, many local residents are still feeling the health effects of being exposed to smoke and soot.

But just what are the short and long-term health affects of the SoCal fire season?

“The particles in the smoke can affect the respiratory system,” said Richard Hesbol, retired captain of the United States Forest Service.

“It makes it very hard for the lungs to filter out those particles,” he added. “That is why when a fire is occurring, many seem to face asthma-like symptoms, such as coughing, labored breathing, sore throat, red eyes and wheezing.”

There are also additional ailments that many face, such as an increase in allergy symptoms.

“I have always had the worst allergies ever since I was little,” said Chelsea Knight, a La Verne resident. “Whenever a fire comes I have learned to not even walk outside because I know once I do, it’s going to be a very miserable day.”

Not only does the smoke affect those who already have allergies or asthma, but it also affects many of those who are otherwise perfectly healthy.

“When I walked into my classroom on the first day of school, all I saw was a cloud of smoke,” said Kendall Hentsch, a student at Citrus College.

“Apparently the air conditioner recycles the air from outside, so it brought the smoke inside the classroom,” he said. “It wasn’t long before all of the students were coughing.

My eyes also were so irritated and red, it made it difficult to think of anything besides how I was feeling.”

Though most of these health affects are minor the risk should clear up when the smoke subsides.

Everyday pollution such as carbon monoxide from cars, cigarette smoke, or aerosol hairspray cans may be more harmful for the body than the smoke from a forest fire.

However, it is recommended to steer clear of any type of outdoor activity until the fires are completely contained to avoided health problems.

“Students need to be compliant with their regiment,” suggested Duc Nguyen of the University of La Verne Health Center. “Stay inside and away from outdoor activities. If students are facing any problems such as irritated or itchy eyes, they can come in to the Health Center to be treated.”

Charlie Neff can be reached at charlie.neff@laverne.edu.

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