Dangerous air quality throughout the West Coast from California wildfires


Sherry Knight

The Avila wildfire approaching a series of houses near Shell Beach.

The wildfires that broke out this year devastated over 3.2 million acres, they destroyed not only land and structures but people’s lives and it didn’t stop there, the toxic air from the fires didn’t just affect people that were close to the fires, it traveled all the way to Europe – and of course, to Carlsbad.

The wildfires have brought toxic air into some areas, and monitoring stations aren’t able to measure the extent of the pollution from the fires. According to the journal of the American Heart Association, toxins include a variety of gasses and particulates from the materials that fuel the fires, these pollutions are linked to respiratory to cardiovascular illnesses. In the middle of a pandemic with a disease that attacks the lungs, this leaves countless people in an even more vulnerable state.

“It was really bad for quite some time, people have had very dry throats. Allergies are much more extensive than they’ve been in previous years,“ Laura Oliver a victim in the fires up near Tehachapi said.

Even though health impacts were as little as headaches, this does not mean people will not suffer from long-term effects. Some studies have indicated that people’s lung capacities declined in the first two years after the smoke cleared. Here in Carlsbad, there was no land devastation from the fires, but toxic air quality and pollution blew in directly from the wildfires. People are wondering how concerned they should be about these long term effects these fires may cause them. This subject has struck the need for more research.

“It’s equivalent to smoking 20 packs of cigarettes.” Governor Gavin Newsom said.

Some people may take precautions from the toxic air but when fires shift with the winds some people barely escape with their lives. I’m sure that people aren’t thinking about proper protection from the toxins until they feel they are safe.

“I haven’t been affected, but my grandmother was, we had to evacuate her house,” Erik Myers, a witness of the fires near Vista said.

Fires are rapidly changing. Fires today are very different from what they were decades ago. This is an important fact for people to know when looking for solutions for change.

It’s equivalent to smoking 20 packs of cigarettes.”

— Governor Gavin Newsom

“Fires are changing definitely…10 acres was a big fire, and now a hundred thousand acre fire has kind of become normal and the fire that I just got home from is over a million acres… so fires are definitely getting larger and more severe every year.” Scott Hansen, a firefighter who works for the US Forest Service said.

Many people agree that with more efficient forest cleanup, it would minimize the size of the fires. This is imperative in prevention after having record fires this year.

“I think forest management plays a huge role in the type of fires we are having right now…in trying to do the right thing we have changed the ecology of the forest…now we have all sorts of forests which have way too many dead trees in them,” Hansen said. “They become a significant fire hazard when a fire starts, it becomes a mega-fire instead of just being a smaller more manageable fire…forest management policies have created the problem we’re having.”