Moderate to unhealthy air quality levels persisted throughout the Central Coast Thursday after wildfires up north continued to bring smoke into the region.

Throughout the day in Santa Maria, significantly fewer people could be seen spending time outdoors as a result of the hazy, smoky skies that have remained in the area.

“It is pretty scary because, you know, we get a lot of fires here,” said Ian Tosches of Guadalupe, who was wearing a mask outdoors Thursday. “Smoke isn’t good for you, right; you don’t want to go outside and start coughing.”

Others say the recent dip in air quality this week has made it harder for them to breathe.

“I have COPD and some breathing issues, and the air quality has been very bad and is exacerbating my symptoms,” said Bob Roy, Santa Maria resident.

In order to prevent health issues during these conditions, officials with the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District say there are multiple safety measures that you can take at home.

“An air purifier that you can buy is called a HEPA purifier, that is High-Efficiency Particulate Air, and what it does is it takes in the air, runs it through a filter inside the device and recirculates the air that is cleaner,” explained public information officer Lyz Bantilan.

She says those purifiers should be placed in a “clean room” that could serve as a safe place in your home that’s free of outdoor air pollutants.

She adds that if you don’t have access to a HEPA purifier, you can make one yourself.

“You can also make one very easily by purchasing a box fan and attaching an air filter to it,” she instructed.

Bantilan says she expects the ongoing air quality alert for Santa Barbara County to continue into the weekend, reminding people in the community to limit their time outdoors.

However, if you do plan on spending significant time outside these next few days, she advises wearing an N-95 mask to keep safe.

“Wearing a mask is just one of the things I have known to do. I know it keeps me safe. Another thing is of course staying home, but sometimes you can’t do that,” Tosches said.

We also reached out to officials with the Santa Maria-Bonita School District about possible limitations to outdoor activities this week, but their media spokesperson told us no changes have yet been made.

Officials at both the City of Santa Maria and City of Lompoc add that no adjustments have been made to their outdoor youth sports and recreation activities, either.

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