Air quality deteriorates due to California wildfires

Fire burns in a canyon north of Calistoga, California on October 11.Wildfires spread by high winds continue to burned unchecked throughout Northern California counties. Photo by Fred Greaves/UPI | License Photo

By Ed Adamczyk – UPI

California’s air quality in the Bay Area is in the range regarded as unhealthy and is expected to deteriorate in coming days due to multiple wildfires.

Winds of over 50 mph spread 22 distinct wildfires in Northern California since Sunday. They also spread smoke and airborne particular matter, leading to harmful breathing conditions.

“We’re going to see a really strong settling of the smoke in the Bay Area on Friday and Saturday,” said National Weather Service’s Bay Area office meteorologist Brian Garcia. “Not to mince words. It’s going to be really bad.”

The most severe conditions were recorded in Napa and Sonoma counties, the center of the state’s wine industry.

“We’re seeing the worst air quality ever recorded in many parts of the Bay Area. The entire Bay Area population is likely being affected by the smoke, Tom Flannigan of the Bay Area Quality Air Management District told the news website SFGate. “Up in the Napa area and even up in San Rafael, basically all of the North Bay, is experiencing the highest readings we’ve ever observed.

The five highest readings on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index in its 5 a.m. update on Thursday were in the Bay Area. Napa leads the list with a reading of 244, regarded as very unhealthy. Truckee, Salinas, Santa Cruz and Atascadero, all affected by the wildfires, had readings between 151 and 158, regarded as unhealthy.

San Francisco hospitals are already receiving patients in their emergency rooms, complaining of respiratory issues likely related to the smoke, said Rachael Kagan, of the San Francisco Department of Health.

At least 23 people have died in the fires. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced by voluntary and ordered evacuations and Sonoma County officials reported that 285 people remain missing.

Artifacts from the historic Spanish Mission in Sonoma have been removed for safekeeping. Schools across the Bay area are closed. Over 80 flights from San Francisco International Airport were cancelled on Wednesday due to smoky conditions.