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Smoke from the Bobcat and El Dorado fires continues to blanket Southern California, prompting the South Coast Air Quality Management District to issue its 10th straight day of air quality advisories.

Some residents of Los Angeles County, growing weary of the thick, hazy air, say they’re at wit’s end.

“You can barely see to the end of the block,” Pasadena resident Stewart Pajares said Wednesday.

Pajares said he felt burning in his eyes and lungs, and when asked what concerned him most about the region’s poor air quality, he said, “breathing.”

Onshore winds will likely begin moving smoke out of the South Coast air basin Wednesday afternoon, the South Coast AQMD said, but “modest smoke impacts” from Northern and Central California fires are likely to persist. Current air quality readings are still lingering in the 150-200 range, which is considered unhealthy by the Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA officials said they are working hard to keep people informed about the risks of the poor air.

“We do need to learn to live with smoke,” EPA air resource advisor Katie Stewart said. “And it’s unfortunate, but we need to be smoke-ready every year.”

Climate & Environment

Your questions about air quality answered

Climate & Environment

Your questions about air quality answered

The air around Southern California feels like smoke soup because of wildfires. What does that mean for your health and daily routines?

Stewart said home improvements such as window caulking and replacing worn-out weather stripping can help prevent smoke and poor air from entering houses.

She also said residents with HVAC systems can set the air to circulate so it’s not being pulled in from outside, and recommended that people without those systems use portable air filters to create “clean air shelters” in one or two rooms of their homes.

But after several days of smoky air, such filters are increasingly tough to come by: Local hardware stores have seen a run on customers looking for air purifiers.

“We have some left,” said Rosie Gonzalez of Virgil Hardware in Glendale, “but it’s down to a really limited quantity.”

Financial factors are also a challenge. Portable air filters — if you can get your hands on one — typically run between $100 and $150, Stewart said.

That has left many low-income residents out of luck, particularly since the city’s smoke relief centers opened for only one day last week and haven’t reopened since.

City of Los Angeles Public Information Officer Rose Watson said the Department of Recreation and Parks is working with the Emergency Management Division to reopen relief centers this week, but locations and availability haven’t yet been announced.

The Parks Department also said Eaton Canyon, Devil’s Punchbowl and San Dimas Canyon Natural area will be closed until further notice because of poor air quality. An earlier closure of all national forests in California has been extended through Sept. 21.

The county’s estimated 66,000 homeless residents also have limited recourse from the unhealthy air.

“It’s going to be worse for them in proportion to the amount of extra pollution they experience,” said Suzanne Paulson, director of the Center for Clean Air at UCLA, “because they’re not getting any sort of protective effects from being inside.”

Yet staying indoors isn’t a catch-all for clean air. Smoke can make its way into buildings, and any exposure — whether for one day or 10 — can increase adverse health effects.

“There is no threshold,” Paulson said. “More is always worse.”

In the Bay Area, which saw some of the worst air quality in the world last week, residents are rejoicing as smoke from the nearby fires dissipates. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District showed readings in the 0-50, or “good,” range Wednesday.

Southern California has yet to see such clean numbers.

“Currently, a stench of fire fills the house,” Mount Washington resident William Shepherd said Wednesday.

Shepherd described the lockdowns — both from COVID-19 and the smoke — as a “long journey,” and noted that he hasn’t seen or heard any children on his block for some time.

“This event of climate change won’t be the last of huge fires,” he said. “As a veteran, it was our duty to protect the people of America and our landscape. Tragically ... a smoke-filled sky is perhaps our global future.”

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Tags: fires coronavirus and pandemic air quality

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100,000 March in Belarus Capital on 50th Day of Protests

By YURAS KARMANAU, Associated Press

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — About 100,000 demonstrators marched in the Belarusian capital calling for the authoritarian president’s ouster, some wearing cardboard crowns to ridicule him, on Sunday as the protests that have rocked the country marked their 50th consecutive day.

Protests also took place in nine other cities, underlining the wide extent of dismay and anger with President Alexander Lukashenko, who has stifled opposition and independent news media during 26 years in power.

The protest wave began after the Aug. 9 presidential election that officials said gave Lukashenko a sixth term in office with a crushing 80% of the vote. The opposition and some poll workers say the results were manipulated.

Lukashenko has defied calls for him to step down and many prominent members of a council formed with the aim of arranging a transfer of power have been arrested or have fled the country. The protests have persisted despite the daily detentions of demonstrators.

The Interior Ministry said about 200 demonstrators were arrested throughout the country Sunday. Police and troops blocked off the center of the city with armored vehicles and water cannons.

Luksahenko stepped up his defiance this week by unexpectedly taking the oath of office for a new term in an unannounced ceremony, leading many to mock him as harboring royal-like pretensions.

Some of the estimated 100,000 people who braved rain and strong winds to march in a two-kilometer-long (over a mile-long) column wore crowns made of cardboard and bore placards calling him “the naked king.”

Lukashenko's main election opponent, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, praised protesters' determination and urged them not to let their energies flag.

“Today is the 50th day of our protest and the Belarusian people have again come out on the streets,” she said in a statement from Lithuania, where she went into exile after the election. “We have come to stop this regime and we will do this peacefully.”

“Democracy is the power of the people. The entire people are stronger than one man,” she said.

Western countries have widely denounced the dubious election and the crackdown on protesters. The European Union and the United States are considering sanctions against Belarusian officials.

Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei on Saturday told the U.N. General Assembly that these expressions of concern are "nothing but attempts to bring chaos and anarchy to our country.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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