Hazy horizon | TheUnion.com

Hazy horizon

Seniors in retirement facilities and nursing homes countywide stayed indoors Tuesday with their windows closed, and children at summer school avoided outside activities Tuesday as western Nevada County faced one of its worst air-quality days in memory, officials said.

The level of ash in the air Tuesday – blown in from 25 fires in the Tahoe National Forest sparked by lightning late Sunday – has reached a hazardous level, according to Joe Fish, deputy air pollution control officer with the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District.

“It’s as bad as it gets,” Fish said. “It’s the worst I’ve seen in 22 years.”

“We are providing our seniors indoor activities like video games and cards,” said Lynette Zaborowski, activities director at Hilltop Commons in Grass Valley. “They are not able to go our into the patio area. We also have a walking club, whose members won’t be walking outside this afternoon.”

Residents at Spring Hill Manor Rehabilitation and Convalescent Hospital in Grass Valley were “keeping the air-conditioning on and all the doors and windows closed,” nurse Yvonne Felker said.

“The outside courtyard is not open today,” Felker added. “There are no outdoor activities.”

At Scotten School and Hennessy School in Grass Valley, students “will play in the multipurpose room and classrooms,” said Susan Clarabut, assistant superintendent at the Grass Valley School District.

“As a rule of thumb … if you see smoke and smell smoke, you are most likely breathing unhealthy levels of particles,” Fish said.

“In this case, we are looking at carbon particles which get right into your lungs, where they interfere with gas exchange on a molecular level,” Fish said. “The particles physically clog air sacks in your lungs.”

So far, health care providers at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital are not getting any fallout from the ashy air.

No case “of respiratory distress has come into the emergency room, because people are apparently staying indoors, as they should,” hospital spokesman Craig Wilcox said.

To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail ssen@theunion.com or call 477-4229.

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