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As of Thursday, those living at lower elevations in the Sacramento Valley should avoid going outdoors as much as possible as pollution reaches unhealthy levels. That’s because smoke from wildfires in California and Oregon has polluted the air at low elevations, according to air quality control experts.
Air quality is expected to fluctuate to, or stay at, unhealthy to hazardous levels through the weekend.
If you live at the 3,000-foot level or below, it’s a good idea to stay inside where there is air conditioning that can filter the air, Shasta County air quality district manager John Waldrop said. “That would include Burney, Redding and even Shingletown, (the latter just above) 3,000 feet.”
EPA’s Air Quality Index (AQI): Each of the six categories represents a different level of pollution and its corresponding health concerns. Each category has a corresponding color to help people see their air quality on the AirNow Fire and Smoke Map at https://bit.ly/33fl6Bb. (Photo: Skropanic, Jessica)
“Wildfires are currently creating increasing amounts of smoke throughout Shasta County,” according to an air quality/health warning issued by the county’s community education specialist Tim Mapes.
Sensors are reading unhealthy air quality levels for almost all of Shasta County, Waldrop said. “At this point, we’re looking at extended periods where we’re going to be at elevated air quality index (AQI) levels. We’ve got some areas that are (at) very unhealthy (levels): Cottonwood, Igo (and) most of the east side of the valley.”
In Tehama County, pollution levels could reach hazardous levels — the highest on the EPA’s Air Quality Index, according to an announcement issued Thursday morning by the Tehama County Air Pollution Control District. That could happen “over short periods of time as smoke from wildland fires in the North State drift over (us).”
Southwestern portions of Tehama County can expect to see higher levels of pollution than other parts, but all areas of the county could experience bad air, Tehama County air pollution control officer Joseph Tona said in an interview with the Record Searchlight.
While everyone could experience health problems with high levels of pollution, sensitive individuals — those with health conditions,children and seniors — are at greatest risk, according to public health officials. Anyone could experience serious symptoms: Coughing, scratchy throat, watery and itchy eyes and difficulty breathing.
“Persons experiencing questionable or severe symptoms should seek professional medical advice,” according to the Tehama County announcement. “Scientific studies have linked fine particulate matter (smoke) with significant health problems.” These include premature death, aggravated asthma, chronic bronchitis and decreased lung function, and serious respiratory symptoms.
On Thursday, air pollution was at low (good) to moderate levels in much of Siskiyou County. That includes Mount Shasta and Yreka, according to the EPA’s AirNow Fire and Smoke Map. Air quality worsened at spots where fires burn in the West and East, and at the northern and southern county borders.
A pair of lost goats stand on the side of a road on Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 9, 2020 as a smoky, orange hue caused by the Bear Fire covers Berry Creek, California. (Photo: Hung T. Vu/Special to the Record Searchlight)
Why air is unhealthy Thursday, but Wednesday’s ‘orange day’ was not
Wildfire smoke blanketed the sky, casting an orange hue over Shasta and Tehama counties on Wednesday. But air quality was good to moderate that day.
“It was going right over the top of us,” Waldrop said. Smoke and particulate matter (pollution) stayed at 5,000 feet and above on Wednesday.
“At lower elevations, we were still getting north winds,” he said. The smoke from the fires down South — most from Butte and Plumas counties — was heading to the North.
The smoke kept temperatures cool, he said
“Right now (Thursday) we’ve gone into a different weather pattern. Smoke all around us is settling into lower-lying areas because of the (overnight) cool canyon-type winds.”
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Jessica Skropanic is features reporter for the Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. She covers lifestyle and entertainment stories, and weekly arts feature d.a.t.e. Follow her on Twitter @RS_JSkropanic and on Facebook. Join Jessica in the Get Out! Nor Cal recreation Facebook group. To support and sustain this work, please subscribe today. Thank you.
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