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Wildfires create worst air quality in San Francisco Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Smoke from wildfires north of San Francisco is creating the worst air quality in the San Francisco Bay Area on record, sending people to the emergency rooms, forcing schools to close and people to wear masks when they step outside.

The region has endured several days of choking smoke since the fires began Sunday night and claimed at least 31 lives and destroyed some 3,500 homes and businesses.

Regulators say the air quality in most of the region has sank to the same unhealthy level as some of China's smog-choked cities.

With winds expected to continue blowing smoke from the fires to populated areas this weekend, many schools decided to close Friday. Organizers canceled weekend events, such as a half marathon in San Francisco, and sports teams such as the Oakland Raiders are monitoring the air quality as they prepare to host games.