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Air quality unhealthy as wildfires continue to burn
Turlock firefighters
Turlock firefighters continue to be deployed throughout the state assisting with major wildland fires (Photo courtesy of TFD).

The heatwave may have broken but the horrible air conditions and wind are still driving people indoors and continuing the wildfire danger.

The Creek Fire and other wildfires burning around California are causing smoke impacts to all counties of the Valley air basin, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District reported.

The District is reissuing the current health caution (originally issued on Aug. 17), which will remain in place until the fires are extinguished. The District anticipates unhealthy air quality to affect various parts of the Valley through the week and into the weekend and warns residents to stay indoors.

The Creek Fire, located in the mountain and foothill regions of Fresno and Madera counties, is producing smoke that is infiltrating into the San Joaquin Valley and bringing unhealthy air quality conditions. As winds shift Tuesday and Wednesday, smoke from the Creek Fire will continue to blow directly into the Valley, causing increased particulate matter pollution and potential for high-levels of ozone. These same winds are predicted to be gusty throughout today into the evening, causing blowing dust and elevated levels of particulate matter 10 microns and smaller (PM10) throughout the Valley.  Air pollution officials caution Valley residents to reduce exposure to the particulate matter (PM) emissions by remaining indoors in affected areas.

California wildfires

PM pollution can trigger asthma attacks, aggravate chronic bronchitis, and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Individuals with heart or lung disease should follow their doctor’s advice for dealing with episodes of PM exposure. Those with existing respiratory conditions, including COVID-19, young children and the elderly, are especially susceptible to the health effects from this form of pollution. Anyone experiencing poor air quality due to wildfire smoke should move indoors, to a filtered, air-conditioned environment with windows closed. The common cloth and paper masks individuals are wearing due to COVID-19 concerns may not protect them from wildfire smoke.

Residents can use the District’s Real-time Air Advisory Network (RAAN) to track air quality at any Valley location by visiting District air monitoring stations are designed to detect microscopic PM 2.5 particles that exist in smoke. However, larger particles, such as ash, may not be detected. If you smell smoke or see falling ash in your immediate vicinity, consider air quality “unhealthy” (RAAN Level 4 or higher) even if RAAN displays lower level of pollution.

As of Tuesday, nearly 14,000 firefighters remain on the line battling 25 major wildfires across California. While firefighters are gaining ground on many of the lightning-caused fires in Northern California, firefighters are aggressively battling wildfires up and down California.

This year, wildfires have now burned over 2.2 million acres across all fire jurisdictions. This is a record for the number of acres burned in California, and this year’s fire season has another four months to go. There have been eight fatalities and more than 3,300 structures destroyed. Most of California remained under Red Flag Warning on Tuesday and the warning is expected to continue Wednesday.

The SCU Lightning Complex, which includes parts of Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties, is 95% contained. It’s burned more than 396,000 acres and destroyed 224 structures.

The Creek Fire is currently 0% contained and has charred more than 143,000 acres.