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Brush fire smoke bothering you? Air quality official talks about cleaning your home's air

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Smoke from Northern California's fires sweeping onto the Central and South Coasts in September.

You can buy air purifiers or build your own low-cost version.

Smoke was a huge health hazard on the Central and South Coasts during the massive 2017 Thomas brush fire, and the 2018 Woolsey Fire.

While we haven’t had massive fires like those in the region for the last few years, smoke from fires elsewhere has created a new issue for us.

"It seems like smoke is traveling father and father," said Liz Bantilan, with the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District. "Last year, smoke from fires affected 96% of California's residents, regardless of whether the fire was near them, or not."

She says with a number of days in our region reaching unhealthy air pollution levels, they are trying to educate people on how to stay informed about air quality, and how to protect themselves.

The Environmental Protection Agency has a real-time interactive map you can use to check air quality anywhere in the country. And, you can find current and predicted air quality numbers for our region through the air pollution control districts in Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo Counties.

Bantilan says one key step in protecting yourself is identifying a room in your home when can be your clean air space during smoke events. It's basically a dedicated room in your home where you spend time, and you can set up an air filtration device.

She says the purifiers have become easier to find, and the costs have come down. One which will handle a small room costs about $75.00.

But, the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District official said you don’t have to buy an air purifier. Bantilan said you can make one using a box air fan. You buy an air filter, like one you use in your home, and duct tape, and attach the filter to the intake side of the fans. She said you want to use a filter than has a high filtration rating level, like a 13.

The Air Pollution Control District just completed a major project to help some low-income county residents get home filtration systems. It bought, and distributed about 650 of the air purifiers to families in the Guadalupe and Casmalia areas.

"We wanted to do it in a community where they might especially benefit from a free device, and in a community where there a lot of people who work outside," said Bantilan.

Links to the EPA’s AirNow Interactive Map, as well as current and predicted air quality conditions for Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo Counties.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.