Northwesterly winds are blowing smoke from the Caldor Fire in El Dorado County to the Sacramento area, leaving a thick layer of haze over the valley that is unhealthy to inhale.
"Everybody's going to be sucking smoke for a long time," Cal Fire Chief Thom Porter said Wednesday. "These are fuels-driven fires as much as weather-driven fires."
Air quality in the Sacramento region was rated unhealthy as of 1 p.m. Wednesday with an air quality index, or AQI, of 168 according to AirNow.gov. The forecast is expected to stay that way until Friday. (Here is more information on how to track air quality and understand air quality readings.)
Air quality officials urge people to stay indoors if you smell smoke, otherwise you're likely to breathe in fine particle pollution.
County officials even closed the COVID-19 vaccination and testing at Cal Expo due to the poor air quality. A recent study has linked poor air quality with increased COVID-19 cases and deaths.
The Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District and Sacramento County Public Health are advising residents to take precautions and avoid outdoor activities if they smell smoke:
- Minimize outdoor activities if you see or smell smoke
- Children, the elderly and people with respiratory or heart conditions should be particularly careful to
- avoid exposure
- Stay indoors with doors and windows closed as much as possible
- Use your air conditioner set to re-circulating indoor air mode
- Those with asthma should follow their asthma management plan
- Contact your doctor if you have symptoms of cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms you believe to be caused by smoke
- Those with heart disease should especially limit their smoke exposure due to increased risk of heart attacks
National Weather Service Meteorologist Bill Rasch said a storm system brought winds that shifted the direction of the smoke.
"Ahead of that storm system, the winds were blowing the smoke away from us, but then the storm system moved through, turned the wind from the north and east which blew it right into the valley," Rasch said. "Once it gets in here sometimes it can be hard to get out unless you have some stronger winds."
But Rasch said the Sacramento area may see those winds soon in the form of Delta breezes.
"When that happens it can clear it out at times," Rasch said. "So I would say over the next couple of days expect, when you wake up in the morning, to see some smoke but maybe see some blue skies once in a while in the afternoon and evenings when that Delta breeze kicks in."
Still, the National Weather Service has extended a Red Flag warning for the Sacramento region that was originally scheduled to end tonight Wednesday. That could lead to new fires.
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