Wild­fire smoke plume could drop on Lodi

Lodi News-Sentinel - - Front Page - By Danielle Vaughn

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.

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