Wildfire smoke plume could drop on Lodi
As the Garza Fire continues to burn in Kings and Fresno counties, the influx of smoke is affecting the air quality of the San Joaquin Valley, according to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.
Cassandra Melching, the outreach and communications representative for the district, said that all eight counties in the valley, including San Joaquin County, have been affected by the smoke.
The valley is currently experiencing a strong pressure weather system which is acting as a lid, Melching said, and the emission from the wildfires has nowhere to go. A weak pressure system would allow the pollutants to disperse because of the stronger wind flow, she said. However a weaker pressure system isn’t expected for the next few days.
Melching said the strong pressure system will cause plumes to start dropping down and it’s hard to predict exactly when or where they are going to appear. So far, plumes have dropped in Turlock and Modesto and the public has already made reports of smelling forest fire there, she said.
“These random pockets every now and then will drop down into an area and people will smell it and that’s when they know that they’re being affected,” Melching said. “That’s why we tell people if you can smell it or if you can see ash you need to treat it as a Level 4 or Level 5 real time air advisory because you are being impacted.”
Currently, Lodi and Stockton are in the clear and are at a Level 1 advisory, but the plumes can drop anywhere and at any time.
“If you step outside and see dark clouds, it’s not clouds, it’s smoke,” Melching said. “It’s aloft up high so if you step outside and take a look up and see the haziness, that’s the smoke. It’s just high enough that it hasn’t been pushed down close enough just yet and it may or may not, but we just want people to be aware.”
Smoke from fires such as the Garza Fire produce particulate matter (PM2.5), which can cause serious health problems including lung disease, asthma attacks and increased risk of heart attacks and stroke. People with existing respiratory conditions, young children and elderly people are especially susceptible to health effects from these pollutants.
“People that do have pr-eexisting issues definitely need to follow advise from their health care professional and stay in constant communication with their doctors,” Melching said.
According to Dr. Alvaro Garza, a San Joaquin County public health officer, the particulates produced from these fires make symptoms much worse for those already suffering from preexisting conditions. He said the smaller particles are more harmful than larger particles from ash because while the larger particles will get trapped in the mucus of the nose, the smaller particles are able to go deeper into the lungs. This could cause inflammation and coughing and will affect younger children, the elderly and those with preexisting health issues a lot more, he said.
Melching said it’s typical for the air conditions to get like this during the summer because of the wildfires that tend to occur during the season. She said the topography of the area makes the situation even worse.