Fire interrupts football practice for area teams

By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer

A blaze in the Angeles National Forest producing poor air quality across the San Gabriel Valley forced some high school football teams on Wednesday to cancel or restrict outdoor activities.

The fire, which broke out Tuesday afternoon on both sides of Highway 39 near Morris Dam Reservoir, has burned 750 acres. Chris Rush, an Angeles National Forest dispatcher, said the blaze was less than 10 percent contained early Wednesday.

The County of Los Angeles Public Health issued an air quality alert and urged individuals to take precautions where there’s visible smoke or an odor of smoke.

“All individuals are urged to be cautious and to avoid unnecessary outdoor activities,” said Jonathan E. Fielding, director of Public Health. “We are also advising schools that are in session in smoke-impacted areas to suspend outside physical activities in these areas, including physical education and after-school sports until conditions improve.”

While some teams are done with two-a-day practices and begin preparation for next week’s season opener (Week 0), other teams which don’t kick off until two weeks from now (Week 1) and still have two-a-days scheduled are having to find ways to fill time for their morning sessions.

Coaches said they will focus on a light walk-through, watching film and hitting the weight room, activities usually reserved for afternoon sessions.

Rosemead High School football coach Matt Koffler said school and district officials canceled all outdoor activity before the team got on the field for its two-hour morning practice.

“We hung out in the morning and stuck around until further notice,” Koffler said. “Later we’ll go inside the gym, watch some film and do some push-ups, sit-ups and plyometric stuff to keep busy.”

Koffler said the interruption would not affect the Panthers’ readiness.

“We’re set and ready to play if we had to go today,” said Koffler, whose Panthers scrimmage South Pasadena next week. South Pasadena canceled practice Wednesday.

Damien coach Greg Gano said he’s waiting to hear from school administrators to see if they’ll cancel outdoor practice in the afternoon or go ahead as planned.

Glendora coach Mark Pasquarella said the Tartans would practice in one of the school’s gyms.

Monrovia, which ended two-a-days on Tuesday, had a walk-through in the gym and watched film Wednesday.

“The way it’s looking right now we won’t be doing any running,” Wildcats coach Ryan Maddox said. “We’ll review plays, watch some films so, yeah, it will affect practice.”

Maddox, who got a text from Monrovia athletic director Randy Bell about the limited practice, said there’s no timetable on the imposed practice restrictions.

Whether it affects preparation for next week’s opener at home against Arcadia is uncertain.

“I hope not,” Maddox said. “Hopefully this will be a one-day thing. We’ll play it day by day, but what could be affecting us is probably affecting (Arcadia). Hopefully it’ll clear up.”

Area coaches seem to be getting used to wildfires infringing on their practice schedule.

Last year, the Sierra Madre fire postponed the start of spring practice across the San Gabriel Valley and beyond.

“It was about three times worse than it’s out there now,” Koffler said. “Hopefully everything turns out OK. We’ll get through it.”

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