Thomas Fire smoke causing poor air quality in Northern Santa Barbara and SLO counties

Smoke and ash now visible in areas north of fire

Thomas Fire smoke causing poor air quality in Northern Santa Barbara and SLO counties

LOMPOC, Calif. - A thick layer of brownish smoke blanketed parts of Northern Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County on Thursday.

It was a visual reminder for people in the area, the massive Thomas Fire burns uncontrollably about an hour south.

"Kind of got a smoky haze out to the southeast and kind of weird looking," said Ryan Walters of Lompoc. "It's got a smoky smell in the air. It's 70 miles away and that's crazy."

In Lompoc, there was plenty of evidence the fire is now making an impact many miles to the north as particles floated down from the sky.

"As soon as I stepped outside, right away I saw the smoke and as kept looking closer, I saw the ash," said Randy Rosales of Lompoc.

The ash particles were especially noticeable on parked automobiles. 

"My car is black, so it was pretty much all white, covered in ash," said Marisa Estrada of Lompoc.

Smoke from the Thomas Fire could linger in the atmosphere for days, depending on how long the fire burns and weather conditions.

It means people in Northern Santa Barbara County and in San Luis Obispo County might have to get used to it for a while.

The smoke and ash is a big concern for those affected by poor air quality.

"Being out in this weather with all the smoke and everything, if I continue to stay out here long enough, I'll probably end up in the hospital using a breathing machine," said Kimberly Chamblee, who suffers from asthma.

The air in the Lompoc area is so bad, it's officially listed by Santa Barbara County officials as "unhealthy" after a recent reading at an area air monitoring station. 

In response, Santa Barbara County Public Health, along with the Air Pollution Control District, sent out a warning to people Thursday to take precautions.

San Luis Obispo County health officials also sent out a warning Thursday, noting smoke will be particularly troublesome along the coast from the Oceano Dunes to Morro Bay.

Among the recommendations to reduce the negative impact of smoke are to stay indoors and to keep windows shut, with indoor circulation only. Reducing or eliminating outdoor activities is also suggested, as is drinking extra fluids to keep respiratory membranes moist.

People who suffer from breathing problems, such as asthma, or who have compromised immune systems, such as the elderly are told to take extra precautions.

If able, those people should be relocated out of the area until the air clears.

Until that happens, people in the areas where smoke is in the air will have to just wait until the conditions improve.

"I'm feeling it at least a little bit in my nose and i know a couple of my co-workers, poor things, they were just miserable from all the ash starting to fall," said Mireya Farias.

For Lompoc Valley residents, the fire, smoke and ash has become an all-too-common experience. Several times over the past couple of years, the area has had to endure several fires.

"We've had enough fires and smoke in Lompoc lately," said Chamblee  "It's sad. I pray for Ventura and everybody else."

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