California Fires Plague Residents


Simrat Singh

While COVID-19 may not be a direct threat to everyone, nurse James Matejeck recommended that people still practice social distancing for everyone’s safety.

Nicholas Hung and Simrat Singh

This year’s wildfire season has produced some of the largest and most destructive fires the state has seen yet, with over 6,000 individual fires ignited in 2019, burning over 190,000 acres and destroying over 700 structures. Over the past several years, California’s fire seasons have continuously become more severe, to the concern of millions of residents all over the state. 

While the worst fires have not reached the Orange County area, fires to the north in San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties have drifted particulate matter downwind toward Irvine, which could potentially alter or halt some athletic practices and games. 

“When I run or do any type of cardio, I feel it most because my throat gets drier than usual,” lacrosse player and senior Kiyan Dhanidina said. “Inside and outside, I feel the effects as I run out of energy quicker.”

While Dhanidina advises that staying hydrated is among the top options to stay healthy and safe during this time, that is not always an option for all athletes, especially those with other health concerns.

“Air conditions are important because running requires your lungs to work, and the smoke makes it so your lungs can’t breathe as easily,” freshman track athlete Nathan Tran said. “This is already a problem for me since I have asthma, so it just makes it harder to do the sport at the best level.”

While wildfires may seem far away, the impact of drifting smoke and particulate matter can be more severe than people might think. Nurse James Matejcek says that breathing unhealthy air can lead to problems ranging anywhere from coughs to bronchitis and pneumonia, especially if athletes have pre existing conditions.   

“I’ve definitely noticed that in students with allergies or asthma, [fire season] tends to exacerbate those conditions,” Matejcek said. “Especially when the Santa Ana winds kick up with the fires, athletes shouldn’t be out running or doing activities during that time, because it puts them at a higher risk of getting that particulate matter into their lungs.”