Hazmat teams are trying to contain a massive California wildfire that is threatening 2,000 homes. Locals are being warned not to inhale the smoke – especially since highly toxic pesticides have caught fire and are releasing dangerous chemical fumes.
The wildfire erupted in Southern California at 6:30 a.m. Thursday, forcing residents near Camarillo to evacuate their homes. The raging fire has already burnt more than 12 ½ sq. miles, and 15 homes have already sustained damage. A group of recreational vehicles in a mobile home park have been completely destroyed. About 2,000 other homes are at risk of destruction as the flames lick the edges of communities 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles. A small, local university canceled classes for the week as the fire threatened its campus, AP reports.
And while smoke inhalation is never healthy, the fumes of this wildfire are particularly dangerous: fire officials on Thursday warned that a store of highly toxic pesticides caught fire at an agricultural property in Laguna Farms, near the university campus. Fire officials have sent out health warnings, urging residents to avoid inhaling smoke – even if no flames are nearby.
Inhaling pesticides can burn internal organs and harm the respiratory system, making it difficult to breathe. Doing so may also cause the pesticides to become absorbed in the bloodstream and disperse throughout the body. Severe cases of pesticide poisoning can lead to loss of reflexes, inability to breathe, unconsciousness or death. External exposure to pesticides can also burn through skin and eyes, in some cases causing blindness.
Firefighters in hazmat suits are currently dealing with the hazardous materials, and the Ventury County Fire Department is assessing the damage throughout the day on Friday, fire spokesman Bill Nash told AP. Wind gusts contributed to the spread of the fire, and unusually dry conditions have caused it to spread quickly. Friday “may be the hottest day of the week, and the humidity we do expect to plummet,” Nash told NBC.