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Update: Heavy Smoke In Mother Lode Prompts Health Alert

Update at 3:45 p.m.: Air quality and health officials in Calaveras County have also just issued an alert due to smoke from the Ferguson Fire. The warning is for all residents but targets sensitive populations, including individuals with heart and lung disease, elderly persons, infants, children and pregnant women. Further information regarding Tuolumne County’s alert and cautionary measures are below, including a chart for the public to check the air quality in their area.

Original post at 2:30 p.m.: Tuolumne County, CA – The thick smoke in the skies over the Mother Lode due to the Ferguson Fire burning in the Merced River Canyon area of Mariposa County, is affecting air quality in many areas in Tuolumne County.

Citing that the smoke accumulation has rendered air quality unhealthy for sensitive groups in some areas and unhealthy to very unhealthy in other areas for everyone, the county health department issued an alert around 1:30 p.m. today. Pointing to the county’s valleys and basins that can trap smoke, health officials offered the chart below for the public to use to help assess the air quality in their communities. One of the best ways to measure air quality is visibility as the chart below demonstrates.

County health officials also offer these guidelines that can help to prevent breathing problems during times when air quality is poor due to wildfires:

  • Individuals with long term health conditions like asthma, lung or heart disease should make sure that they have a supply of medications on hand and are following their caregivers’ instructions.
  • Elderly and very young children should limit their outdoor activities when local air quality is “unhealthy for sensitive groups” (visibility less than 5 miles).
  • Signs that the smoke may be bothering you include coughing, scratchy throat, irritated sinuses, shortness of breath, stinging eyes or runny nose. Sometimes symptoms may even include chest pain or headaches. Consult your caregiver for worsening symptoms.
  • If you are advised to stay indoors, keep indoor air as clean as possible. Keep windows and doors closed unless it is extremely hot outside. Run an air conditioner if you have one, but keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside. If you do not have an air conditioner and it is too warm to stay inside with the windows closed, seek shelter elsewhere.
  • Consider a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to reduce breathing problems. Room air cleaners, which utilize a HEPA filter, may reduce the number of irritating fine particles in indoor air.
  • Do not add to indoor pollution. Do not smoke because smoking puts even more pollution into the air.

County health officials will continuously monitored the air quality as the Ferguson Fire burns and provide updates as conditions change. Ferguson Fire updates are here.