Last Friday, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department issued an Air Quality Warning for parts of Santa Barbara County as a result of air contamination stemming from the Camarillo Springs Fire.
The fire, which was mostly contained as of yesterday, burned tens of thousands of acres of land across Ventura County and caused widespread evacuations. The warning advised against strenuous outdoor activity in order to avoid repercussions like coughing, wheezing, chest pain, lightheadedness and fatigue and was particularly directed towards the young and elderly.
County Public Health Department Assistant Deputy Director Susan Klein-Rothschild said it became necessary to broadcast the warning due to the danger the severe conditions presented to county citizens.
“The air quality warning had been issued first of all because of the fires, and from the lack of readability of wind patterns, which blow smoke into our area. Secondly it was because of high temperatures, and particularly high ozone in our area,” Klein-Rothschild said. “It speaks specifically to the impact of smoke and hot weather conditions — two factors that were concerning on Friday.”
According to a Ventura County Fire Department spokesperson, between Thursday and Sunday, the fire burned about 28,000 acres of land, called 1,900 firefighters to serve, injured eight people and threatened 4,000 homes, but destroyed none. At this point, the blaze is about 75 percent under control with little remaining fire activity.
“We’re within the perimeter of the fire and we’re transitioning to fire fighters controlling the perimeter, looking for hot spots, improving and strengthening the control line, and transitioning into what we call repair and rehabilitation,” a VCFD spokesperson said. “As the fire moved along it had more containment around it and the threat lessened and lessened.”
Rachel Tassano, a first-year psychology major, said the fire’s proximity to her home combined with the uncertainty of her friends’ and family’s safety made it difficult to feel comfortable being away for school.
“It was hard not knowing what was going on especially because the smoke cover was so close to where my brother goes to school at Camarillo High and, since I don’t have a TV in my room at school. Trying to follow the news online was scary because the number of acres burned grew from three to four and five digits overnight,” Tassano said. “My house was really close to a fire that happened a couple years ago so it was a scary reminder of how quickly something like this can start and affect people.”
With 4,000 homes threatened by the fire, evacuations were very common over the weekend. Luke Kuchta, an 18-year-old Westlake Village resident, said his family chose to evacuate their home after seeing the flames and hearing that neighbors were advised that it would be dangerous to stay.
“We saw the smoke coming over the hill and it was pretty scary. You watch it on the news all day and then you actually see it from the window and it really opens your eyes,” Kuchta said. “We were looking over and it looked like Mordor. It was night and you could still see the glow of the fire.”