A smoky haze from grass fires burning out of control in the hills near Patterson hangs over Tracy as the region swelters in a triple-digit heat wave that has triggered widespread rolling blackouts and air-quality warnings.
A group of four fires designated by Cal Fire as the Canyon Zone Fire is burning in Del Puerto Canyon northwest of Patterson, about 21 miles southeast of the intersection of 11th Street and Tracy Boulevard.
The fire burned through Sunday night, and brown smoke had crept over Tracy by Monday afternoon, giving the sun a red-orange hue. As of 4:14 p.m., Cal Fire estimated that 1,851 acres had burned and the fires were still entirely uncontrolled.
The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office has issued mandatory evacuation orders for people who live on Del Puerto Canyon Road from Frank Raines Park to Mines Road.
Another group of grass fires near Mount Diablo State Park on Deer Valley and Marsh Creek roads, dubbed the Deer Zone Fires, has consumed 1,161 acres since Sunday and is also burning out of control. Those fires were sparked by lightning.
People across Tracy reported ash falling in their neighborhoods Monday afternoon.
The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District cautioned valley residents to stay out of the smoky air caused by those wildfires and other fires farther south near Turlock, Fresno County and Los Angeles.
The air district warned that microscopic particles in the smoke can trigger asthma, aggravate chronic bronchitis, and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Young children, older adults, and anyone with existing respiratory conditions, including COVID-19, are especially at risk from this type of air pollution.
Anyone who can smell smoke or see falling ash should consider the air unhealthy. The best response is to move indoors to a filtered, air-conditioned environment and keep windows closed.
The air district emphasized that cloth and paper masks used to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 via respiratory droplets are not sufficient to filter out the microscopic particles that make up smoke.
At the same time, an extreme heat wave has brought triple-digit temperatures and warnings of rolling blackouts.
A statewide flex alert calling for everyone to conserve electricity was issued Sunday and continues through Wednesday. Temperatures are expected to peak over 100 degrees each day, driving electricity demand higher in the late afternoon and early evening, just as the sun sinks and solar power generation becomes less efficient. In response, people are asked to turn off unnecessary lights; use major appliances in the morning or later at night; and, health permitting, keep thermostats at 78 degrees or higher between 3 and 10 p.m.
Flex alerts are issued by the California Independent System Operator, which oversees the state’s bulk electrical power system, transmission lines and electricity market. The goal is to prevent rolling blackouts and other emergency measures.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. notified customers by a recorded voice message that rolling blackouts were possible in the area through Wednesday at the discretion of Cal ISO. The blackouts could last up to two hours until the demand on the power grid stabilizes.
A similar alert was issued Friday, followed by a Stage 3 Electrical Emergency, the first declared since the 2001 energy crisis.
Accuweather forecasts Tracy’s high temperatures to remain in the triple digits through Wednesday, cooling into the high 90s on Thursday but immediately rebounding to triple-digit heat Friday through Monday.