While there are currently no fires burning in Calaveras County, drift smoke from across the state has resulted in unhealthy levels of air pollution in the area.
On Monday, Calaveras County Health Officer Dean Kelaita, MD, and the Calaveras County Air Pollution Control District issued a joint air quality advisory to notify the public of potentially hazardous conditions.
“The Highway 4 corridor from Murphys through Copperopolis and the entire Highway 49 corridor are currently experiencing very unhealthy levels of smoke,” the advisory reads. “Other areas of the county are also experiencing substantial smoke pollution. These conditions may persist for several days.”
Those who can see or smell smoke are advised to “avoid all unnecessary outdoor activities, especially if you are in an area where visibility is greatly reduced. Any persons with heart or lung health issues should remain indoors with the doors and windows closed. All persons should avoid going outdoors.”
“The smoke we can see and measure in the air is a complex mixture of gases and very small particles made when wood and other organic materials burn,” Kelaita said in the advisory. “The biggest health threat is from the fine particles that penetrate deep into the lungs when we breathe. This can cause a range of health problems including aggravation of chronic lung and heart conditions. Older adults, and those with underlying health conditions, are more at risk from the harmful effects of smoke exposure.”
Local residents are advised to limit smoke exposure in the following ways:
• Stay indoors with the windows and doors closed, if possible.
• Do not add to the smoke by starting backyard fires.
• Do not run fans that bring smoky outdoor air inside – examples include swamp coolers, whole-house fans, and fresh air ventilation systems.
• Run your air-conditioner only if it does not bring smoke in from the outdoors. Change the standard air-conditioner filter to a medium or high efficiency filter. If available, use the “recirculate” or “recycle” setting on the unit.
• Limit outdoor exertion and physical activity.
• Leave the smoke-impacted areas until conditions improve, if possible.
• Reduce unnecessary driving. If traveling through smoke-impacted areas, be sure that your vehicle’s ventilation system is on recirculate.
• Do not smoke, vacuum, fry food, or do other things that will create indoor air pollution.
• If you have asthma, take your medications and follow your asthma management plan.
• Non‐HEPA paper face mask filters and bandana-type face coverings may be helpful in reducing the spread of germs and viruses, but they are not capable of filtering out extra fine particulates which are much smaller in size. Therefore, they will not be helpful in protecting individuals from smoke-related impacts.
“Anyone experiencing serious symptoms due to smoke should contact a health professional. Persons who have a respiratory-related illness may also wish to consult their health care provider if they are experiencing smoke exposure,” the advisory reads. “Keep in mind that air quality can change rapidly at different times during the day due to wind shifts; therefore, it is important to monitor the smoke throughout the day in your area and make outdoor plans accordingly.”
Information on current air quality can be found at fire.airnow.gov.
For more information, call the Calaveras County Air Pollution Control District at 754-6588 or Calaveras County Health and Human Services at 754-6448.