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Smoke in the air: Air quality district issues health advisory through Monday

Western Nevada County residents woke Wednesday to smokey skies and an air quality in the unhealthy for sensitive groups range.

The air quality became more breathable throughout the day, though the pattern could continue.

The reason for the smoke is the Mosquito Fire in Placer County, near Oxbow Reservoir. It was at 1,203 acres Wednesday afternoon, and zero percent contained. There are no fires in Nevada County. (Thursday morning update: The fire now maps at over 6,700 acres.)

The smoke led the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District on Wednesday to issue a health advisory through Monday.

Daily wind patterns bring smoke north from the Mosquito Fire at night, then east, said Joe Fish, deputy air pollution control officer with the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District.

“It’s all about the wind,” Fish said, adding later, “That east-flowing, down slope wind brought it all to us.”

Fish expects the daily wind patterns to usher out the smoke each afternoon. He saw that happen Wednesday. An air quality index of 8 at midnight rose to 87 by 3 a.m., then hit 141 at its height, which is in the unhealthy for sensitive groups range. It was around 92 — in the moderate range — at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday before climbing to 114 just before noon. It was at 71 at 12:45 p.m., and then at 6 — in the healthiest range — by 2:30 p.m.

“It all depends on what happens with that fire,” Fish said.

Bad air quality can irritate people’s eyes and throats, as well as lead to headaches, nausea, shortness of breath, coughing and other effects. People are advised to minimize outdoor activities, even if healthy. People with respiratory issues should stay indoors, the air district said.

Fish advised people to avoid exercising outdoors when air quality is bad, as people will breathe in more particulate matter.

Properly fitting N95 masks can protect people from smoke particles. However, reusing them might reduce their effectiveness and make breathing difficult. Surgical and cloth masks aren’t effective because of smoke particles’ small size.

Alan Riquelmy is the managing editor of The Union. He can be reached at ariquelmy@theunion.com or 530-477-4249


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