Air quality concerns for Bay Area

June 23, 2008 6:04:38 PM PDT
There is a noticeable smell of smoke and haze that is hanging over the Bay Area from all of the wildfires. The air quality has suffered and there are health risks.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District said for early Monday evening the smoke is mainly a risk for people living in direct proximity of the Napa Fire. Regardless, precautions are also being taken in other parts of the Bay Area to protect the most vulnerable.

As smoke continued to billow from the Brisbane Fire, students at the nearby Bayshore Community Center in Daly City were pulled inside to play. Director Joe Egan says it is the second time in the last month that fires have forced him to act.

"Some of the kids have asthma that can trigger asthma attacks. It's hard breathing just running around. There's the smell for one. It's just easier to keep them inside and just know it's safe," said Joseph Egan, director of the Bayshore Community Center.

Meanwhile, meteorologists at the Regional Air Quality Management District are monitoring satellite images and readouts, measuring particulate matter in the air. At this point, they say those pollution levels are at the high end of moderate, just short of being declared unhealthy.

"Generally we issue a Spare the Air advisory or health advisory when we see air quality levels that are above the moderate level. That is unhealthy for sensitive groups. We haven't reached that, right now, as of yet," said Kristine Roselius of the Regional Air Quality Management District.

Still, doctors advise parents to keep an eye on their kids, if they live near one of the active fire areas. And don't hesitate to bring them to an emergency room if they begin showing symptoms of breathing problems.

"Definitely if they're wheezing, if they're coughing to the point of choking. If they're having a hard time breathing or if their nose is breathing like a bull, it's going in and out, or if they're retracting their muscles, breathing in their stomach and they're having a hard time breathing, definitely bring them in," said Dr. Dawn Belardinelli M.D., from Kaiser Permanente.

Experts say the best precaution if you are in fire area, is to keep children, elderly relatives, or people with problems, such as asthma, indoors until the smoke clears.

On Monday afternoon the Air Quality Management District did issue a smoke advisory directed mainly at residents living near the active wildfires in Napa and Fairfield. If the air quality in the Bay Area gets worse, they could issue a general air quality warning, but the hope is that on-shore winds will help clear the smoke before that becomes necessary.

Air quality officials told us their hope right now is that on-shore winds will thin the smoke from the larger Napa Fire, and drive it to the east of us. However, they'll continue to monitor the particle levels, and issue a warning if the situation changes.

Send us your photos
If you have pictures of this fire or any other fire burning in the Bay Area, we want to hear from you. Send them to photos@kgo-tv.com and we'll feature them on-air and online.

MORE: ABC7's Bay Area wildfire resource guide and safety tips
MAP: Google Reference Map of California Fires
(From the Governor's Office of Emergency Services).


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