Photo Courtesy of Ann Huynh. Junior Ann Huynh uses an indoor fan in an effort to cool off during the heatwave. To prevent the debris and smoke outside from circulating into her home, Huynh resists from turning on her air conditioner.

Bobcat Fire threatens air quality in the SGV community

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The ongoing Bobcat Fire has exposed hazardous air quality to the San Gabriel Valley Mountain area. The fire, which ignited on Sept. 6, imposed health concerns to students and staff residing within the vicinity.

As of Sept. 26, the Bobcat Fire burned approximately 114,202 acres, making it one of the largest fires in Los Angeles County history. The Department of Public Health advised that all residents, including English teacher Melissa Bishop, take safety measures, such as turning on indoor air filters and avoiding the outdoors.

“While the fires [and air quality] were at their worst, I could not go out and walk,” Bishop said. “When I was breathing, I felt like I was getting little sentimentaries of the ash in my mouth through my mask. It irritated my eyes and my daughter has asthma, [so] we had to be very convigilent about her health.” 

The extreme heatwaves and strong winds quickened the spread of the fires, simultaneously expanding the area of impact. As a result, smoke and debris traveled to junior Ann Huynh’s neighborhood, which was also experiencing the heatwaves.

“Since it was hot out, I really wanted to use the air conditioner, but if I turned it on, it would bring in the ashy air from outside,” Huynh said. “There was a point where my dad had to go to my grandma’s house for the air filter for about a week and a half. My dad already has weak lungs due to smoking, so it made it harder for him to breathe.”

As fires worsened, mandatory evacuation alerts and warnings rang local cities, including Arcadia, Sierra Madre, Altadena, and Pasadena. 

“I packed and took a bunch of things out of my house because I had [to prepare to evacuate],” Spanish teacher Victor Garcia, who lives in Sierra Madre, said. “I have all my things in one place like my insurance, passport, credit cards, and all that.” 

The fires have spread downhill across the San Gabriel Valley Mountain from Monrovia Canyon Park to Juniper Hills as of Sept. 25. Forest official firefighters have contained 62% of the fires and claimed that full containment will be reached by Oct. 30. Investigators are still identifying the cause of the fire.

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