Air quality suffers as smog and fire seasons start in Southern California – Press Enterprise

If you noticed something in the air Monday, you weren’t imagining things.

Smog season, and fire season, have begun, contributing to potentially unhealthy air quality across parts of the Inland Empire.

A fire that burned about 13 acres in the Santa Ana River bottom near the Redlands-Highland border Sunday, and continued smoldering Monday, put out enough smoke to affect several schools in the San Bernardino area.

Dr. Cameron Nouri, emergency medicine director at Community Hospital of San Bernardino, said the facility had more asthma patients Monday than he’s seen in weeks.

Another fire at the south end of Reche Canyon near Moreno Valley charred 35 acres Sunday, fueled by tall grasses, a prime concern of fire officials this year following a drought-busting rainy season.

But Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department spokeswoman Jody Hagemann didn’t think that fire would have affected air quality Monday because it burned out Sunday evening and the wind since then fanned out the smoke.

San Bernardino County Fire Department spokeswoman Tracey Martinez said the agency responded to more than a dozen calls for vegetation fires Sunday and Monday.

“It was definitely a busy weekend, but it’s going to get worse as it heats up and the vegetation starts drying out,” Martinez said.

The upcoming Memorial Day weekend and the outdoor barbecues that go along with it are another concern for fire authorities, who remind people to be vigilant in containing their open-flame cooking fires.

“We want people to know to be careful,” Cal Fire Capt. Liz Brown said. “We are going to have a lot of these quick pop-up fires, but when the winds start, they can get worse.”

Smoky classrooms

Several schools on the west side of San Bernardino were affected by smoke that blew into the city, according to the San Bernardino City Unified School District Office of Safety & Emergency Management.

Most of the reports involved a smoky smell in some classrooms, but as soon as the filtered air conditioners — which are turned off over the weekend — began running, the smoke dissipated, said Eric Vetere, the district’s safety and emergency manager.

“We sent out two alerts to the schools to keep them up to date on heat and air quality,” he said.

The district advised school officials to keep students inside if things got worse and limit strenuous activity. It was up to each school to decide what actions to take, Vetere said.

The Redlands Unified School District “carefully monitored” the South Coast Air Quality Management District website Monday because of the fires, officials said in an evening statement.

Colton Joint Unified School District did not put out any alerts Monday, a spokeswoman said.

Ozone in the air

The Air Quality Management District tracks air quality across Southern California.

Its forecast for Tuesday predicts that ozone air pollution will be unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as those with respiratory or cardiac conditions, in eastern and…

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