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CA fire pollutes air

BY RACHEL CLARK | LOS ANGELES, Calif. | September 25, 2002

"The wind currents were amazing, and were obviously drifting and dispersing the smoke all over the place."

—Bruce Quintelier

Air-quality advisories remained in parts of southern California Wednesday as smoke and ash from a wildfire clouded the air.

The Williams Fire about 40 miles east of L.A. -- so named because it began in the Williams Canyon in the Angeles National Forest -- has claimed 44 structures, 40 of which were upscale vacation homes. Wednesday afternoon, about 1,000 people were evacuated from the fire-stricken area.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District urged individuals to avoid unnecessary outdoor activities like exercise because of the unhealthy air quality.

"The smoke was pretty thick yesterday," said Bruce Quintelier, U.S. Forest Service fire information spokesperson. "It basically blocked out the sun ... today, the air quality seems to be considerably better."

Schools cancelled outdoor recesses, Quintelier said, and smoke traveled as far away as Arizona.

"The wind currents were amazing, and were obviously drifting and dispersing the smoke all over the place."

Disaster response to the fire from local agencies was quick.

"We did respond immediately yesterday," said Colleen Ferguson of The Salvation Army. "When we arrived, we met with the incident commander and were told everything was under control and we weren't needed."

However, later that day The Salvation Army was asked to provide food to about 100 officers in the Glendora Police Department.

"They had to immediately mobilize all of their people and they needed our help," Ferguson said. "We just responded to their need."

The American Red Cross also assisted residents by operating several evacuation centers.

Tuesday night, the Mt. Baldy Village -- located at the base of Mt. Baldy -- area was evacuated. The area is a mixture of private and government land.

"It's well away from an urban area," Quintelier said. "But we're trying to keep the fire from going into that area. The fire is backing down into the hillside above the residential area and they have been successful so far, keeping any homes from burning."

Estimates of structures threatened by the fire vary, but the National Interagency Coordination Center said firefighters have placed structure-protection around 10,000 residencies, 50 commercial properties and 5,000 outbuildings.

The cause of blaze is under investigation, but so far, flames have destroyed about 22,000 acres. The Forest Service has closed the Angeles Forest to the public.

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