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L.A. wildfires prompt unhealthy air warning

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Hospitals near two wildfires raging in the San Fernando Valley reported a spike in patients complaining about breathing problems from the ash and soot Monday.

Fifteen patients came into the emergency room of Providence Holy Cross Medical Center with coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath and other respiratory problems. Of those, two were admitted for further evaluation, said hospital spokeswoman Patricia Aidem.

“We immediately stepped into disaster mode,” Aidem said.

About eight miles away, Northridge Hospital Medical Center saw 11 patients who were exposed to unhealthy air. Most had breathing difficulties and some were treated for eye injuries from flying debris, said Charmine Navarro, a clinical nurse manger.

The hospital braced for more patients.

As long as the fires are burning, “they’ll be trickling in,” Navarro said.

On Monday, the South Coast Air Quality Management District predicted unhealthy air for parts of Los Angeles County due to the wind-fanned wildfires. The air pollution control agency said air quality in the San Fernando Valley and parts of the San Gabriel Mountains may reach unhealthful levels.

The agency urged people who can see smoke or dust to avoid unnecessary outdoor activities. It also advised the elderly, children and people with breathing problems to stay indoors.