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September 14, 2020 – The Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District and the Public Health Departments of Nevada, Plumas and Sierra Counties are extending a joint Air Quality Health Advisory due to the prolonged and widespread smoke from numerous wildfires. Poor air quality (possibly reaching hazardous levels) is expected to persist as long as these wildfires are active. Smoke density and location will vary greatly, depending on fire behavior and weather conditions, with smoke settling in low areas at night.

Exposure to elevated PM2.5 (fine particulate matter in smoke) concentrations can result in eye and throat irritation, headaches, nausea, shortness of breath, congestion, coughing, impaired lung function and chest pain, especially among sensitive individuals such as the elderly, children, people with asthma, people with heart or lung conditions, pregnant women and anyone who is exercising or working hard outdoors. Smoke also leads to increased ozone formation, which exacerbates these symptoms. People who are affected by, or susceptible to, COVID-19 may be at increased risk from wildfire smoke due to cardiovascular symptoms or a compromised or suppressed immune system.

While cloth face coverings offer protection against COVID-19 virus spread, they do not provide protection against smoke particles. People who must be outdoors for long periods, in areas with heavy smoke, or where ash is disturbed, may want to wear an N95 respirator mask. Those with existing respiratory, lung or heart conditions should limit their exposure by staying indoors. Since wearing a respirator mask can make it harder to breathe, those with lung or heart conditions should check with their doctor before using one.

If you smell or see smoke around you, the following actions are recommended:

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  • Minimize outdoor activities even if you are healthy;
  • Stay indoors with doors and windows closed tightly;
  • Run the air conditioner on the “recirculate” setting if that is an option;
  • People with asthma should follow their asthma management plan;
  • People with heart disease, respiratory conditions or chronic health issues should stay indoors;
  • Contact your doctor if you have symptoms of cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, or severe fatigue;
  • Keep airways moist and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water;
  • Avoid breathing additional smoke, such as from cigarettes or barbecues.

Near real-time air quality conditions for Quincy, Portola, Chester, Truckee and Grass Valley may be found at www.myairdistrict.com (click on your location of interest in the “Local Air Quality” portion). As you view the most recent data, take into consideration that conditions can change rapidly due to wind shifts; it is wise to monitor the smoke throughout the day and make plans accordingly. The smoke may be visible in satellite imagery, available via www.weather.gov/sto (near the bottom of the page).

Additional information about air quality can be found at: www.airnow.gov/

Smoke mapping can be found at: https://fire.airnow.gov/