Rough Fire Burns Sierra, Creates Unhealthy Air Quality

Image courtesy of NASA
Rough Fire location; Image courtesy of NASA

California is undergoing a pretty wicked heat wave this week (I just got back from the Bay Area, when even normally mild San Francisco was pushing 90 degrees), and the Rough Fire that’s burning around Kings Canyon National Park is creating quite unhealthy air in the already blazing hot San Joaquin Valley.  The fire had been threatening to reach 100,000 burned acres, so smoke that’s headed to the valley floor will affect some people around Fresno/Clovis and Visalia.

From the Fresno Bee:

Air quality authorities advised people to stay inside if they smelled smoke – a scent Clovis residents awakened to this past weekend holiday and at the start of the work week.

Soot levels from the Rough fire increased to dangerous levels in Clovis, where the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District has a monitor to track pollution levels.

The pollution, known as PM-2.5, is particularly harmful to children, the elderly and people with lung or heart problems. The spike in Clovis was considered to be harmful even for healthy people.

“We were lucky most of the summer because wind conditions prevented this kind of spike,” said Seyed Sadredin, executive director of the air pollution control district. “But that has changed. People need to take protective measures.”

Clovis Unified School District said that recesses at all schools were canceled, as well as physical education classes and outdoor activities.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and adjust activities accordingly throughout the week,” said district spokeswoman Kelly Avants.

Clovis Unified athletic directors were monitoring air quality and giving students water breaks every 10 minutes, athletic directors said.

Sierra Unified School District, based in Auberry, took similar protective action.

Janelle Mehling, assistant superintendent of business services, said the smoke “looks like fog.”