Santa Barbara County Medical Reserve Corps members hand out N-95 face masks in front of the Costco in Goleta on Dec. 11.  (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

This story was last updated at 7:30 a.m. Monday

The Thomas Fire burning in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties has caused unhealthy air quality in the region for the last week, and prompted mass school closures as well as free face mask distributions by the Public Health Department and other agencies. 

Click here to check the current air quality levels from the Air Pollution Control District. 

An air quality warning remains in effect, officials said. 

From Monday through Friday this week, Dec. 18-22, free N-95 masks are being distributed at the following sites:

» Goleta Valley Community Center, (5679 Hollister Ave.), 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday 

» Santa Barbara Public Library (40 East Anapamu St.), 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Monday through Saturday, Dec. 23; 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday 

» Goleta City Hall, (130 Cremona Dr.), Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.  

» Carpinteria Library (5141 Carpinteria Ave.), Monday, 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  

» Buellton CVS, ask store staff (218 East Hwy 246), 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday 

More than 300,000 masks have been distributed to local organizations and directly to residents during the Thomas Fire.

People are advised to stay indoors and wear a N-95 mask, which helps filter harmful small particles found in ash and smoke, when they go outside.

To make the masks fit, press it down around the nose and make sure it makes an airtight seal around the face, said Public Health Dr. Polly Baldwin said. 

“If you get that nice line across your face right here, you’re doing it right,” she said at a community meeting Sunday.

The masks are disposable, and people should stop using them if they no longer make an airtight seal around the face, whether from being bent out of shape or being too soiled from sweat or other bodily fluids, Baldwin said. 

Some children can wear the smaller size of N-95 masks being handed out, she noted. 

Public Health officials noted that some online information about N-95 masks refers to airborne communicable diseases and may advise to discard the mask after each use, but that doesn’t apply to smoke particles. 

With the unhealthy air quality from the fire, the N-95 masks can be reused, they said. 

Check air quality levels here, for Santa Barbara County, Ventura County and San Luis Obispo County

The Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District set up temporary air monitoring stations to record levels of fine particles (PM 2.5) in Carpinteria, Santa Ynez and Los Alamos, and current conditions can be found on the website here

Mask distribution efforts were a partnership between the Public Health Department and Direct Relief, the Santa Barbara Medical Reserve Corps, CERT volunteers, cities and libraries. 

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For Thomas Fire updates, visit Santa Barbara County’s website and Ventura County’s emergency page.

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Managing Editor

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at