In an unusual move, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) has issued a Winter Spare the Air Alert from Friday all the way through Monday because of heavy smoke and particulates drifting into the Bay Area from the so-called Camp Fire which continues to rage in Butte County. The blanket of unhealthy air has forced some North Bay Schools to close and numerous scheduled North Coast Section playoff football games to be postponed. And some pedestrians to usa surgical masks.
The Camp Fire is now the most destructive wildfire in California’s history.
The extended air quality alert was issued because smoke from the Camp Fire continues to cause elevated levels of particulate pollution in the region, especially impacting the North Bay and East Bay, BAAQMD officials said. Outdoor and indoor burning of wood or any other solid fuel is prohibited for the duration of the alert. It is recommended to limit outdoor activities as much as possible.
Early Friday afternoon, the North Coast Section took what officials called an “unprecedented” step by postponing 75 percent of scheduled playoff football games until Monday due to the unhealthy air. The postponed games include Monte Vista at San Ramon Valley in Danville, San Leandro at California in San Ramon and Benicia at Bishop O’Dowd in Oakland. A total of 16 games were postponed.
“We have some games that we are not altering because, frankly, all the data that we have shows that they’re going to be fine,” NCS Commissioner Gil Lemmon said. “We didn’t change them if we didn’t feel it was necessary. But in all the other games, the air quality is so poor that logistically we don’t want to wait until the last-minute.”
A full list of games scheduled for Friday and Saturday that have been postponed can be found online.
In addition, the National Weather Service has simultaneously issued a red flag warning and a frost warning for the region this weekend — fire danger is high for the Santa Cruz Mountains, the North Bay and the East Bay hills because of windy, dry conditions in the forecast, yet frost is also likely because of overnight temperatures dropping into the low 30s Saturday morning, mainly in the North Bay and southern Salinas valleys.
Smoke from wildfires contains chemicals, gases and fine particles that are harmful. The biggest hazard is from breathing in the fine particles, which can reduce lung function, worsen asthma and exacerbate existing heart and lung conditions, officials say.
Many residents awoke Friday with their homes filled with the smell of burning wood and air quality officials had issued a warning. According to the federal EPA air quality site, Alameda had an unhealthy air index of 165 and a particulate pollution measure of PM2.5, meaning there are particles that measure 2.5 microns across. This is actually worse than in Beijing.
Oakland resident Danny Wertheimer wore a surgical mask as he went for his Thursday evening walk in Oakland. “I looked out my window and I saw the smoke filter in,” he said. “It looked bad. It’s the worse I’ve seen this year. It just came in so quickly.” Joseph Hall said the smoke has left him gasping for air at times. “There is ash in my mouth,” he said. “My mouth and my nose are dry as a bone.”
The smoke was being driven into the Bay Area by east winds and the plume streams out hundreds of miles into the Pacific at 3,000 to 4,000 feet.
The poor air quality forced officials at Santa Rosa Junior College and Sonoma State University to cancel Friday classes. “Due to projections that the air quality in Sonoma County will not improve by tomorrow, all #SRJC campuses and sites will be closed through Friday, Nov. 9 and all classed and activities will be canceled,” said a statement from the community college.
“The air quality at Sonoma State University remains poor due to the fires in Butte County and is projected to stay at unhealthy levels at least through Friday. As a result, the decision has been made to cancel Friday classes and suspend normal business operations for the day,” said a statement from the CSU school.
Meanwhile, Santa Rosa police said their department had been inundated with calls as was Napa County’s fire dispatch center.
Football games, schools and health… This Butte County wildfire is really a monster!