Over the past few days, many Sacramento residents have noted that the skies are hazy, and the air sometimes smells slightly smoky. These noticeable changes to the air are due to several extreme wildfires that have been burning throughout Northern California and Southern Oregon since August. The presence of stronger winds and changing wind directions in Northern California have carried the smoke from these wildfires south to Sacramento, causing the air quality index to reach moderate to unhealthy levels in our region.
Some of the ongoing wildfires affecting the air quality in Sacramento include the Anvil Fire in Oregon, the Smith River National Recreation Area Fire in Northern California, and the Six Rivers National Forest Lightning Complex Fire in Northern California. The Oregon fire was discovered on August 25, and investigators are still trying to determine its cause. Both the Smith River and Six Rivers fires were caused by lightning strikes that occurred about a month ago. The Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has considered shutting off power for people living in the Shasta and Tehama counties in order to help prevent the start of more wildfires.
Being exposed to and breathing in polluted air for short periods of time can cause eye irritation, wheezing, and shortness of breath. The particulate matter in the air can cause asthma attacks, worsen chronic bronchitis, and elevate the risk of stroke and heart attacks. Young children, older adults, and those with any respiratory conditions including COVID-19, are especially susceptible to particulate matter in the air. The U.S. Air Quality Index guidelines advise older adults, younger children, and people with lung or heart diseases to limit their time outdoors. In addition, they recommend that all people keep windows shut and use air filters in their homes.
Although the conditions here in Sacramento seem poor, they are actually preferable in comparison to the conditions of cities in the Bay Area like San Francisco, where thick layers of smoke have recently blanketed the city. The unhealthy air quality index in the Bay Area has caused sports games to be canceled, and even zoos have been temporarily closed due to the air quality.
These poor air conditions are expected to last for at least the next several days, so make sure to check the air quality index frequently to follow the latest guidelines. With the first day of fall around the corner, the cooler weather will hopefully help bring an end to the wildfires and usher in improved air quality.