Air Quality Alert Downgraded to Air Quality Watch

Air Quality Alert Downgraded to Air Quality Watch title=
Air Quality Alert Downgraded to Air Quality Watch
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Update by the Air Pollution Control District
October 15, 2021

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District (APCD) have downgraded the Air Quality Alert to an Air Quality Watch for Santa Barbara County, including the Channel Islands. Smoke and ash from the Alisal Fire still have the potential to affect air quality, but any impacts are not expected to be as significant as they were earlier this week This Watch will remain in effect until conditions improve.

This continues to be a dynamic situation, and local air quality conditions can change quickly depending on winds. All Santa Barbara County residents are encouraged to stay alert to local conditions by using two resources in particular:

  • Check readings available on APCD’s website: www.ourair.org/todays-air-quality.
    • Our permanent monitoring stations are sophisticated devices that provide reliable readings from regional monitors located throughout the county.
  • Check the EPA Fire & Smoke map:  fire.airnow.gov.
    • This map shows data from our permanent monitoring stations, as well as from temporary monitors and low-cost sensors. Using multiple data sets, this map allows you to keep tabs on trends in the air quality conditions and see a bigger picture of information. It also displays a smoke plume to show what areas are being affected.
We also encourage people to pay attention to conditions around them. Levels of smoke and particles, and areas affected, will vary. If you see or smell smoke in the air, be cautious and use common sense to protect your and your family’s health. Everyone, especially people with heart or lung conditions, older adults, pregnant women, and children, should limit time spent outdoors and avoid outdoor exercise when high concentrations of smoke and particles are in the air.

If air quality reaches unhealthy levels, and/or if you see or smell smoke, we recommend that everyone:

  • Head indoors and remain indoors, as much as possible – the best protection against wildfire smoke is to stay indoors as much as possible;
  • Avoid outdoor activity;
  • Close all windows and doors that lead outside to prevent bringing additional smoke inside;
  • Create a “clean air room” to keep indoor air quality safe. Turn on your High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) purifier if possible. For information on different ways to create a “clean air room,” click here.
  • Avoid driving when possible and use “recycle” or re-circulate mode to avoid drawing smoky air into the car;
  • Drink plenty of fluids to keep respiratory membranes moist; and,
  • If you are an essential worker and must work outside during wildfire smoke conditions, the use of a properly fitted N-95 mask provides protection.

If ash fall occurs, see tips on APCD’s website for safe clean-up of ash: www.ourair.org/ash-cleanup/.

If you have symptoms that may be related to exposure to smoke and soot, contact your doctor. Symptoms include repeated coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness or pain, palpitations, and nausea or unusual fatigue or lightheadedness.


Upgraded Air Quality Alert Due to Alisal Fire

Update by the Air Pollution Control District
October 13, 2021

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District (APCD) have upgraded the Air Quality Watch to an Alert for Santa Barbara County, including the Channel Islands. Smoke and ash from the Alisal Fire is affecting air quality, and winds in the forecast are expected to push more smoke onshore. This is a dynamic situation, and local air quality conditions can change quickly.

All Santa Barbara County residents are encouraged to stay alert to local conditions by using two resources in particular:

  • Check readings available on APCD’s website: ourair.org/todays-air-quality.
    • Our permanent monitoring stations are sophisticated devices that provide reliable readings from regional monitors located throughout the county.
  • Check the EPA Fire & Smoke map: https://fire.airnow.gov/
    • This map shows data from our permanent monitoring stations, as well as from temporary monitors and low-cost sensors. Using multiple data sets, this map allows you to keep tabs on trends in the air quality conditions and see a bigger picture of information. It also displays a smoke plume to show what areas are being affected.

We also encourage people to pay attention to conditions around them. Levels of smoke and particles, and areas affected, will vary. If you see or smell smoke in the air, be cautious and use common sense to protect your and your family’s health. Everyone, especially people with heart or lung conditions, older adults, pregnant women, and children, should limit time spent outdoors and avoid outdoor exercise when high concentrations of smoke and particles are in the air.

When air quality reaches unhealthy levels, and/or if you see or smell smoke, we recommend that everyone:

  • Head indoors and remain indoors, as much as possible – the best protection against wildfire smoke is to stay indoors as much as possible;
  • Avoid outdoor activity;
  • Close all windows and doors that lead outside to prevent bringing additional smoke inside;
  • Create a “clean air room” to keep indoor air quality safe. Turn on your High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) purifier if possible. For information on different ways to create a “clean air room,” click here.
  • Avoid driving when possible and use “recycle” or re-circulate mode to avoid drawing smoky air into the car;
  • Drink plenty of fluids to keep respiratory membranes moist; and,
  • If you are an essential worker and must work outside during wildfire smoke conditions, the use of a properly fitted N-95 mask provides protection.

If you have symptoms that may be related to exposure to smoke and soot, contact your doctor. Symptoms include repeated coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness or pain, palpitations, and nausea or unusual fatigue or lightheadedness.


Air Quality Watch Issued for Alisal Fire

Source: Air Pollution Control District
October 12, 2021

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District issued an Air Quality Watch for Santa Barbara County, including the Channel Islands. Smoke and ash from the Alisal Fire could affect local air quality. Strong winds, locally and across the state, are also stirring up dust and ash into the air. This is a dynamic situation, and local air quality conditions can change quickly. All Santa Barbara County residents are encouraged to stay alert to local conditions by visiting www.ourair.org/todays-air-quality or fire.airnow.gov.

Levels of smoke and particles, and areas affected, will vary. If you see or smell smoke in the air, be cautious and use common sense to protect your and your family’s health. Everyone, especially people with heart or lung conditions, older adults, pregnant women, and children, should limit time spent outdoors and avoid outdoor exercise when high concentrations of smoke and particles are in the air. 

When air quality reaches unhealthy levels, and/or if you see or smell smoke, we recommend that everyone:
•    Head indoors and remain indoors, as much as possible;
•    Avoid strenuous outdoor activity; 
•    Close all windows and doors that lead outside to prevent bringing additional smoke inside; 
•    Avoid driving when possible and use “recycle” or re-circulate mode to avoid drawing smoky air into the car; 
•    Drink plenty of fluids to keep respiratory membranes moist; and,
•    If you are an essential worker and must work outside during wildfire smoke conditions, the use of a properly fitted N-95 mask provides protection. 

When wildfire smoke is affecting your area, create a “clean air room” to keep indoor air quality safe. The best protection against wildfire smoke is to stay indoors as much as possible when smoke is present. For information on different ways to create a “clean air room,” click here.

If you have symptoms that may be related to exposure to smoke and soot, contact your doctor. Symptoms include repeated coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness or pain, palpitations, and nausea or unusual fatigue or lightheadedness.

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EastBeach Oct 12, 2021 12:21 PM
Air Quality Alert Downgraded to Air Quality Watch

My portable particle counter (same sensor Purple Air uses) has been at 4 ug/m3 all morning for PM2.5 particles. (very clean air). I could see the smoke hovering offshore from the Riviera. Started seeing/smelling smoke in the last 30 mins and the particle count jumped to 50 ug/m3 so similar to what Purple Air map is showing for my area.

Minibeast Oct 12, 2021 02:09 PM
Air Quality Alert Downgraded to Air Quality Watch

Everyone please be aware that there is NO amount of wood smoke you can inhale safely. If you can't remain indoors, wear your mask. Try to seal that mask to your face as best you can. Hopefully your mask has a HEPA filter. Get out of the smoke as soon as you can. Breathing in smoke will damage your lungs, heart and brain. If you think you can't be harmed because your lungs work fine, you're wrong. Re: wildfire smoke and the human brain: "One possibility is for very small particles to be inhaled into the lungs, escape into the blood stream and travel to the brain. A second possibility is the particles stay in the lungs but generate inflammatory signals that travel in the blood to the brain. Lastly, evidence suggests that particles may not need to travel to the lungs at all, but rather could get to the brain directly from the nose by following nerve bundles." (source: theconversation.com)

SBTownie Oct 13, 2021 01:14 PM
Air Quality Alert Downgraded to Air Quality Watch

I hate to tell you this, Duke, but yes. Here I come, the EdHat killjoy, but in fact neighborhood wood fireplace burning is a huge environmental problem. I can smell someone in my area running a wood fire about 60% of the year. I love the smell (don't we all) but I hate knowing what it does to my health. This year I invested in a $850 extreme air filter that actually works and has about 17lbs of pure carbon in it. It's not really a consumer-grade thing with a flimsy little filter, it's the real deal. If you don't believe me on fireplaces, just look up the environmental catastrophe they're causing for places like London and Alaska where wood burning is very in. And before you laugh it all away and tell me to relax, remember there are vulnerable people like babies in the womb, little children, and more for whom exposure to even mild amounts of smoke can have potentially catastrophic events later on in life (autism, premature birth, low birth weight and more are all linked to mom's exposure to unhealthy air and specifically small PM particulate during pregnancy).

John Wiley Oct 13, 2021 12:52 PM
Air Quality Alert Downgraded to Air Quality Watch

I'm glad to see this post. Thanks, Edhat! Conditions are forecast to be quite variable today, and I'm seeing it shifting right now as the mountains look fuzzier due to smoke between the peaks and town. The second of the two links provided in Ed's post is by far the better, because it shows individual sensors. Be aware though, they're only updated hourly and conditions today will change very quickly as the wind shifts and hotspots erupt at the fire. Here's my Comment last night on this topic in Ed's main post for the fire, with a specific link to our region at the end: - Unhealthy air! I.V. particulates hit high Unhealthy level 174 at 7pm then dropped to low Unhealthy 109, and the smoke sites all show the plume shifting to and fro. As of 10pm Hollister near the Sandpiper was high Moderate 79, even though other sensors show low Healthy levels (i.e. El Encanto Heights at 63). Some of the smoke blown offshore circled around in our "coastal eddy" and came back. We could smell the smoke downtown at the farmers market at 5pm, and put on our N95 masks. When it eased up a little we found even our 3-layer cloth covid masks eliminated the mild smoke smell. Bottom line is it's fluctuating quickly with the wind area by area. Looks like it's crucial for health to close our windows and take other precautions, especially for people sensitive to smoke. Some of the particulates are quite small and can get deep into our lungs, potentially causing life threatening conditions even years or decades later. We closed the house up and closed rooms we're not using. I've fired up our home-made air filter (box fan with 20" high MERV number filter attached with painter's tape on the fan's intake side with the airflow arrow pointing toward the fan). Can't smell the smoke, and our eyes aren't burning now. The site named Purple Air show sensors. Here's a USFS interagency Wildland Fire Smoke link showing lots of sensors with details and hourly history, that takes a while to initially load and then zoom in to our area but then updates quickly: https://fire.airnow.gov/?lat=34.41938000000005&lng=-119.69904999999994&zoom=12

ginger1 Oct 13, 2021 11:46 PM
Air Quality Alert Downgraded to Air Quality Watch

As John wrote, conditions can change quickly, sometimes over a 15 min period. That makes the county APCD sensor system nearly useless considering there are only three and they update sometimes only hourly, or longer. PurpleAir uses a crowd sourced system of dozens of local sensor stations that (most of them) update every few minutes and provide much more detailed and user-friendly reporting.

For example: I went to walk my dog, accessed the Hope Ave sensor, and found the reading was an "acceptable" PM2.5 of 78. When I returned 25 minutes later the reading was an "unhealthy for sensitive people" 118. Today, it's been as low as 25 (good) and as high as 156 (unhealthy for everyone). So yes, it varies. A lot. As the wind blows.

a-1634234509 Oct 14, 2021 11:01 AM
Air Quality Alert Downgraded to Air Quality Watch

Purple air is great but be aware that counts may be slightly inflated. They are not adjusted for the type of particulate (wildfire smoke) until you select an appropriate "conversion" in the settings. US EPA and LRAPA are supposed to be pretty accurate for wildfire smoke pollution.

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