Poor air quality

Map taken from airnow.gov on Sept. 8.

The Creek Fire, located in the mountain and foothill regions of Fresno and Madera counties, has emitted smoke that is creating unhealthy air quality conditions in the San Joaquin Valley. Patterson residents have already dealt with varying levels of poor air quality since the SCU Lightning Complex fires began on Aug. 16. A total of six fires (SCU Lightning Complex, CZU August Lightning Complex, LNU Lightning Complex, SQF Complex, August Complex and Creek Fire) may be impacting air quality in the valley according to valleyair.org.

Air quality readings on Tuesday reported an unhealthy air quality index rating (AQI) of 554.

Winds on Tuesday and Wednesday were expected to continue blowing the smoke from the Creek Fire directly into the valley. The increased particulate matter pollution blown by the winds caused officials to caution valley residents to remain indoors to reduce exposure to the poor air quality.

These emissions can trigger asthma attacks, aggravate chronic bronchitis, and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. A news release by San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District shared that individuals with heart or lung disease should follow their doctor’s advice for dealing with exposure. People with respiratory conditions, including those diagnosed with COVID-19, young children, and the elderly, are “especially susceptible to the health effects from this form of pollution.”

Even healthy individuals may experience temporary symptoms such as irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, coughing, phlegm, chest tightness and shortness of breath.

It is advised that all residents stay indoors as much as possible in a filtered or air-conditioned environment with windows closed.

Avoid activities that make you breathe faster or more deeply, and consider purchasing filters for your home and avoid using anything that burns, such as wood fireplaces, gas logs, and even candles or incense. Avoid smoking, and advice from airnow.gov suggests not using a vacuum unless your vacuum has a HEPA filter to avoid stirring up particles in your home.

Officials warned that common cloth and paper masks individuals have worn during the COVID-19 pandemic may not protect the user from wildfire smoke while outdoors. Disposable respirators such as N-95 or P-100 respirators will help if you have to be outdoors for a period of time.

Residents looking to track data on the current state of air quality can use myRAAN.com or airnow.gov. Air quality conditions can change rapidly. Residents are advised to check local air agency websites for the most recent hourly air quality conditions.

Air monitoring stations are designed to detect microscopic particulate matter particles (PM 2.5) that exist in smoke. Large particles such as ash may not be detected by monitoring stations.

“If you smell smoke or see falling ash in your immediate vicinity, consider air quality “unhealthy” (RAAN level 4 or higher) even if RAAN displays lower pollution level,” the press release by San Joaquin Valley air pollution officials stated.

The public can find more information by visiting valleyair.org or calling the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District offices in Modesto at 209-557-6400, Fresno 559-230-6000 Bakersfield at 661-392-5500.

Residents can also download the free “Valley Air” app on their mobile device to follow air quality conditions.

PI reporter

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