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Update: Smoky Skies Bring Unhealthy Air Quality To Mother Lode

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Update at 2:40 p.m.:  A joint public health and air quality advisory has now been issued in Tuolumne County to notify the public of poor air quality conditions due to the Caldor and Washington Fires and other large wildfires burning in Northern California.

The Tuolumne County Public Health Department and the Air Pollution Control District are reminding the public that wildfire smoke can be hazardous to a person’s health. They advise,  “Currently, due to northerly winds, Tuolumne County is experiencing air quality that is unhealthy or very unhealthy depending on where you reside.” As stated below, the AQI ranges from 181 unhealthy in the Sonora and Columbia areas and 280 or very unhealthy in the Strawberry area.

County health officials provide the following recommendations to reduce exposure to smoke:

  • If you can see or smell smoke, limit all unnecessary outdoor activities;
  • Stay indoors, close all windows and doors, and use the air conditioner on the
    recirculation setting, replacing air filters can also help;
  • Keep in mind that healthy individuals can be negatively impacted by the pollutants from
  • Limit even indoor physical activities:
  • Wearing a mask indoors is not considered adequate protection for smoke-related impacts;
  • Smoking, using the vacuum, fireplace, or candles are not advised due to the buildup of
    particulate matter from these activities; and
  • Check on your loved ones and neighbors

Original post at 1:30 p.m.: San Andreas, CA – The Mother Lode skies are filled with smoke and one of the hardest-hit areas are in Calaveras County with some communities reaching an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 500 or hazardous.

For that reason, the Calaveras County Health Officer and Calaveras County Air Pollution Control District have issued a joint air quality advisory to notify the public of the potential for poor air quality conditions. Those conditions are primarily due to smoke from the Caldor Fire in El Dorado County, the Dixie Fire in Plumas County, the Airola Fire in Calaveras County near Vallecito, the Washington Fire in Tuolumne County, and several other fires burning in Northern California. The advisory will remain in place over the weekend and ending at 3 p.m. Monday, August 30. County health officials stating that it could be “further extended depending on conditions.”

The smoke concentrations will vary in the region and may be severe in multiple locations over several days, according to health officials. In Tuolumne County, the AQI ranges from 181 unhealthy in the Sonora and Columbia areas and 280 or very unhealthy in the Strawberry area.  They add that shifting overnight winds may cause sudden increases in smoke concentration while asleep. They ask the public to “consider keeping the windows closed to keep out smoky air and share that a high-pressure ridge in the atmosphere and expected lighter winds may hold the smoke in the area for several days.”

Wildfire smoke contains very tiny particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs, advise health officials, noting it can irritate your lungs, cause inflammation, affect your immune system, and make you more prone to lung infections. They list these as some of the symptoms coughing, watery and itchy eyes, headache, scratchy throat, and difficulty in breathing.

“If you can see or smell smoke, try and avoid unnecessary outdoor activities. Poor air quality caused by the nearby fires can lead to health problems especially for those at increased risk which include people with chronic health conditions, those over 65 years old, and those who have or those who are recovering from COVID-19,” said Dr. Rene Ramirez, Calaveras County Health Officer. “People at higher risk should take steps to lessen their exposure to smoky air,” he added.

Calaveras County Health provided this chart with outdoor activity recommends:

Outdoor activity guide during smoke chart
  • Smoke in Sonora skies