The gagging smoke that has blanketed the central San Joaquin Valley for days is going nowhere soon and could be at choking levels into next week.
The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District expects winds to continue to blow smoke into the Valley from the Ferguson Fire that has burned into Yosemite National Park.
And there’s a new concern: The Holy Fire in Orange County could affect air quality in the South Valley. “We’re anticipating we’re going to begin to see that smoke come into the south end of the Valley in the next day or two,” said Jaime Holt, an air district spokeswoman.
Smoke from the Holy Fire probably will not make it into Fresno unless winds change, Holt said.
The air in Fresno was worse Tuesday morning than in Beijing, China. But Beijing was having thunderstorms, Holt said. “It’s a jump to say we have worse air quality than Beijing on a daily basis,” she said, but the wildfire smoke in the Valley is horrific. “Yesterday, I had people calling and people thought there was a campfire going on next door,” Holt said.
Wildfire smoke is a nasty mixture of gases and fine, microscopic particles that can get deep inside lungs and trigger asthma attacks or aggravate heart and lung problems. And breathing the toxic air can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
The bad air has forced high school coaches in the Valley to alter practice schedules or bring athletes indoors. And City Council Member Esmeralda Soria said Tuesday’s National Night Out community event in West Fresno had been postponed.
Dr. John Gasman, a pulmonologist at Kaiser Permanente Fresno, has patients who are affected by the smoke. “One hundred percent of the people I’m talking to are having changes in their symptoms,” he said.
The most important thing for residents in the Valley is to avoid exposure to the smoke as much as possible, said Will Barrett of the American Lung Association in California. “It is important to remember that kids, seniors and those with asthma, COPD, heart disease and other health impacts are more vulnerable to smoke — including after the smoke clears,” he said.
“For people who must go outside like construction workers or farm workers, we strongly encourage using a mask to filter out the fine particles in wildfire smoke. Some people think a regular dust mask or medical mask will help, but it won’t. You need to use a properly-fitted mask with an N95 or HEPA filter to ensure you’re protected,” Barrett said.
The overall recommendation is for people to stay indoors in air conditioning, Holt said. “We are taking this very seriously. Air quality is bad and we want people to protect themselves.”