When Pesticides Catch on Fire

The Atlantic Wire
Firefighters from Riverside, Calif. work to extinguish a brush fire at Point Mugu, Calif.,  Friday, May 3, 2013. A Southern California wildfire carving a path to the sea grew to more than 15 square miles and crews prepared Friday for another bad day of gusting winds and searing weather. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
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Firefighters from Riverside, Calif. work to extinguish a brush fire at Point Mugu, Calif., Friday, May 3, 2013. A Southern California wildfire carving a path to the sea grew to more than 15 square miles and crews prepared Friday for another bad day of gusting winds and searing weather. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Wildfire season is off to a troubling start in Ventura County, California, where flames raged all day Thursday and burned at least 10 square miles, including a very toxic pesticide plant. Local residents were evacuated from their homes and as were the students at California State University — all of them. Pesticide is a pretty poisonous substance when it's sitting in a jug, but when it catches on fire, toxic gases go everywhere. This doesn't happen often, but it has happened before. It's very dangerous.

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The fire department dispatched a hazmat team to the site of the blaze about 50 miles west of Los Angeles on Thursday afternoon. It's their job to contain the fire at the plant and clean up the mess. In the meantime, though, locals are being sternly instructed not to breathe the smoke. Wildfire smoke is not good for you. Wildfire smoke mixed with burning pesticide smoke, however, is very bad for you. With the Santa Ana winds stoking the fire, the afternoon proved difficult from the 850 odd firefighters working to contain the blaze, but so far, they haven't contained it one bit.

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This is only the beginning. With water from snowmelt expected to fall far short of its average, there's a lot of anxiety that this summer's fire season will be extra bad, and the record temperatures that will surely arrive won't help. But hey, wonderful weather doesn't come without its drawbacks. "This is a part of being in Southern California, just like earthquakes," one local resident who had been evacuated told the Associated Press.

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