Winds from north bring un­healthy air

Wild­fire smoke ex­pected into early next week

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - BAYAREA - By Ash­ley McBride

Smoke from the Camp Fire in Butte County blan­keted the Bay Area on Fri­day, mak­ing the air more haz­ardous than no­to­ri­ously smoggy Bei­jing’s and prompt­ing of­fi­cials to warn peo­ple to avoid go­ing out­side.

Schools in sev­eral dis­tricts can­celed classes be­cause of the smoke. Pedes­tri­ans wear­ing masks and scarves on their faces were com­mon sights on city streets, as peo­ple did what they could to avoid breath­ing the small, haz­ardous par­ti­cles con­tained in wood smoke.

“We’re go­ing to have smoke through­out the day and prob­a­bly into early next week due to the weather pat­tern,” said Kris­tine Roselius, a spokes­woman for the Bay Area Air Qual­ity Man­age­ment Dis­trict. Fore­cast­ers see no fun­da­men­tal shift in the weather over the next sev­eral days, and in fact warned of a pos­si­ble re­turn of fire-watch weather in the Bay Area this week­end.

The agency rated Bay Area air qual­ity as “un­healthy.” It ad­vised peo­ple to limit their time out­doors, keep win­dows closed and set air con­di­tion­ers to re­cir­cu­late.

Winds from the north­north­east will con­tinue to push smoke from the Camp Fire to the Bay Area for sev­eral days, of­fi­cials said. The air will be smok­i­est in the North and East Bay and in San Fran­cisco, Roselius said.

Dr. John Balmes, who stud­ies air pol­lu­tants and their ef­fects on res­pi­ra­tory health at UCSF, said the bad air puts ev­ery­one’s health at risk, but es­pe­cially those with heart and lung dis­eases. Chil­dren also have in­creased risks be­cause they breathe more rapidly than adults, lead­ing to higher ex­po­sure to the pol­luted air, he said.

The tiny par­ti­cles in wood smoke are what make it es­pe­cially dan­ger­ous, Balmes said.

“Those fine par­ti­cles can make it down into the deep lung and they can cause harm to peo­ple with

pre-ex­ist­ing heart and lung dis­ease, peo­ple with asthma, chronic ob­struc­tive pul­monary dis­ease,” he said. “Those con­di­tions are ex­ac­er­bated by air pol­lu­tion like this.”

If go­ing out­side can’t be avoided, N95 res­pi­ra­tory masks of­fer some pro­tec­tion, Balmes said. The name comes from the fact that the masks can fil­ter out 95 per­cent of the fine par­ti­cles in wood smoke.

Balmes said he rec­om­mends them for those with heart and lung prob­lems and peo­ple who must be out­side for an ex­tended time.

Chil­dren, and men with fa­cial hair, might have trou­ble seal­ing the masks around the nose and mouth. But Balmes said that even so, wear­ing them is bet­ter than noth­ing.

Schools in the most heav­ily af­fected areas were tak­ing no chances Fri­day. All schools in Butte and Sonoma coun­ties closed to keep chil­dren and staff from be­ing ex­posed to the dan­ger­ous air. Santa Rosa Ju­nior Col­lege, Cal­i­for­nia State Univer­sity Chico and Butte Col­lege also closed and can­celed all week­end events.

The lo­cal air qual­ity dis­trict banned Bay Area res­i­dents from us­ing fire­places, wood stoves or other wood-burn­ing de­vices through at least Mon­day.

“We don’t want res­i­dents to add to the al­ready pol­luted air that we have out there,” Roselius said.

Air qual­ity fluc­tu­ates de­pend­ing on the wind, but on Fri­day it was bad by any stan­dard.

The air qual­ity in­dex, a num­ber that mea­sures air pol­lu­tants, hov­ered be­tween 105 and 152 around the Bay Area on Fri­day. A healthy level is 50 or lower.

The Bay Area’s num­bers were sim­i­lar to those dur­ing the 2017 North Bay fires, which were far closer than the Camp Fire.

By con­trast, in Bei­jing, one of the world’s worst places for air pol­lu­tion, the rat­ing was 21 early Sat­ur­day.

Yalonda M. James / The Chron­i­cle

Smoky air fills the sky in Oak­land, as seen from Hiller High­lands. Pub­lic schools in Oak­land kept stu­dents in­side for phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion classes.

Paul Chinn / The Chron­i­cle

Vera Travis wears a pro­tec­tive breath­ing mask on a picket line in front of the Mar­riott Mar­quis ho­tel in San Fran­cisco. Smoke from the Camp Fire in Butte County con­tin­ues to drift to the south.

Yalonda M. James / The Chron­i­cle

David An­der­son shops for a res­pi­ra­tor mask at Ace Hard­ware on Grand Av­enue near the Oak­landPied­mont bor­der.


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