San Francisco emergency shelter opens because of air quality

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Leon Alston is a regular volunteer at St. Anthony's. "I come here a lot and make friends," Alston said.

However, Saturday was a first for him. Alston prepared cots for St. Anthony's emergency air quality shelter.

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The shelter usually opens closer to the holiday season, but they decided to make an exception because of the air.

"It's just dark and dirty and it hurts your throat and it's scary," said Marnie Regen, St. Anthony's director of development and outreach.

Vulnerable people like seniors, children and those with breathing conditions are most at risk.

The Camp Fire in Butte County has San Francisco's air quality sitting in the red, which means it's considered unhealthy to breathe.

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"When there's a shelter in place warning and you don't have shelter, somebody needs to provide shelter," Regen said.

St. Anthony's shelter will be open overnight and then turn into a dining hall during the day.

"There's really no areas in the Bay Area that are healthy to breathe so we're telling people stay indoors and limit your time outside," Walter Wallace, Bay Area Air Control Management's spokesperson said.

The warning didn't keep people from San Francisco's pier.

"We came for the Diwali festival and it was so much fun," said Ishi Chopra, a sixth-grade student from Cupertino.

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Ishi didn't enjoy the air.

"It's very heavy," Ishi said. "It's unusual."

Sandeep Chopra, Ishi's father, was also concerned about the air. "We live in Cupertino and the air quality there was even worse yesterday."

The Chopras headed home from the festivities early because their son has asthma.

However, crowds sprinkled with faces covered by masks stayed behind to watch the Diwali celebration fireworks. The colors filled the sky behind the evening's haze.

Despite air quality alerts, the fireworks show was approved.
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