By Margherita Beale
Donald Frueh and his dog, Nemesis — who live without shelter in Sacramento — spend nearly all day outside. Frueh said the smoke filling the air has made it harder to sleep and walk to get food.
“The closest cheap place to here is the Dollar Store and it’s 13 blocks [away],” Frueh said. “It’s not good having dogs outside in [the smoke]. He’s not one to drink or to move around too much. It’s basically just making both of us a little lethargic.”
As smoke from the Camp Fire in Butte County continues to affect Sacramento air quality, Noel Kammermann, executive director of the nonprofit homeless shelter Loaves and Fishes, says the city’s unsheltered population is most at risk of long-term exposure.
“For many of us who have homes and places to go, we’re not as impacted as the men, women and children who are experiencing homelessness,” he said. “We have to consider what to do in regards to air quality so that the people who are out there don't suffer [from] any long-term medical effects.”
As of Monday, the wildfire that began Thursday has burned 117,000 acres and is 30 percent contained — and it has driven unhealthy levels of smoke throughout Northern California.
Kammermann said he is most concerned about the homeless individuals who have compromised immune systems, as well as those with asthma and other breathing issues.
More than 900 respiratory masks were delivered to Loaves and Fishes and other shelters on Monday. Masks have been available at most city fire stations since Sunday.
Kammermann said it’s concerning that those without shelter have been breathing in smokey air for nearly four days.
“We’re not really sure what’s going to happen to folks over time with regards to how that will impact their immune systems,” Kammermann said. “That part is particularly difficult for people who are experiencing homelessness and are outside essentially 24/7.”
The city canceled Monday’s Veteran's Day parade due to smoke, and the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District forecasts unhealthy air quality for the county and region at least through Tuesday.
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