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Air quality a concern for Placer County possibly through October

By: Brody Fernandez Of Gold Country Media
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As multiple wildfires continue to plague California this week, air quality is being compromised in Placer County. With fires such as the Mendocino Complex Fire burning itself into the record books, air quality for much of the state has now been issued as “unhealthy” or even in some areas “hazardous,” according to officials.

Placer County is no exception.

The Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District and the Placer County Air Pollution District jointly issued an official smoke-related health statement Monday that mandates certain precautions be taken until Friday.

“It’s really important that people understand that we have two different types of air quality pollutants, ‘particulate matter’ which is visual to the human eye and ozone pollutants that we can not see,” said Placer County Air Pollution Control District associate planner Ann Hobbs.

“The summer time ‘problem pollutant’ (ozone) typically occurs between May and October (summer months) but if you combine that with the wildfires we have, it creates more problems.”

Currently, Lincoln, Roseville, Loomis, and Rocklin are under “Spare the Air Alerts” since Aug. 3. Respective maps located at http://sparetheair.com/aqmaps.cfm designate certain areas under specific categories. Placer County has been under the orange or “Unhealthy for sensitive groups” category that fluctuates back and forth to the yellow “moderate” category.

Placer County residents can take precautions during poor air quality conditions, according to Hobbs.

“One should be aware of what you can do outside. Being inside is where you want to be during these conditions. It’s also very important to turn your air conditioner unit on ‘recycle mode’ or place it on a setting that limits air from outside circulation,” Hobbs said. “While children want to be active outside, please avoid any unnecessary outside activities for them because it could be detrimental to their health in these air quality conditions, especially for sensitive groups (asthma, and other respiratory illnesses they have).”

According to Hobbs and the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quaility Control District individuals should contact their doctor if they have symptoms of cough, shortness of breath or symptoms they believe to be caused by smoke outside. Those with heart disease should especially limit their exposure since particulate pollution from smoke can cause heart attacks.

National Weather Service meteorologist Craig Shoemaker also weighed in on how the weather is affecting the fires and area smoke.

“The biggest problems are the wildfires we have right now,” Shoemaker said Tuesday. “The smoke has been pooling in the Sacramento Valley for days, and as these fires continue to produce a tremendous amount of smoke, the conditions will remain the same. The weather conditions from the Mendocino Complex Fire for example are really causing distress for weather patterns in the valley.”

A break from the smoke might occur in Placer County by this weekend.

“What we need is a southwestward wind coming out of the Bay Area pushing this smoke toward the northeast, Shoemaker said. “This air comes from the Pacific Ocean and this type of air (Delta breeze) is essentially the cleanest air we could get right now. However, if there’s a new fire that starts around here or worse in the Bay Area, our temporary relief from clean Delta breeze wind patterns from the ocean are gone.”  

This smoke break would only be temporary, Shoemaker stressed.

“There is about a 75-percent chance we get this type of airflow to the region this weekend,” Shoemaker said. “It could come on Saturday or Sunday. However, it will only last for a day or two.”

As long as the wildfires are raging, according to Shoemaker, these smoky conditions will persist.

“As long as those fires are going, we can only hope for temporary relief,” Shoemaker said. “We will probably have smoke in the valley well into early autumn of this year through September or October.”