Here's why smoke and air quality are still so bad, even as Bay Area fire containment grows

The smoke is worst in San Francisco, Oakland and Santa Cruz Friday

Alix Martichoux Image
ByAlix Martichoux KGO logo
Friday, August 28, 2020
If CA fires are getting contained, why is air quality so bad?
The Bay Area has been shrouded in smoke for more than a week. So when will it end? ABC7 News Meteorologist Mike Nicco has the air quality forecast.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Firefighters are gaining ground on the numerous massive wildfires burning in just about every part of the Bay Area, but many in the Bay Area still woke up to smoky skies Friday morning.

So when will the Bay Area see improved air quality and relief from the smoke?

Even though the fires are growing more and more contained, smoke could linger in the Bay Area for a while, says ABC7 News meteorologist Mike Nicco.

FIRE MAP: Track wildfires across San Francisco Bay Area with this interactive map

"People confuse fire containment with it being expunged or put out," he explains. "It just means they put a perimeter around the fire, but it can still burn up to that perimeter."

And as the fire burns, it still lets off some amount of smoke.

The CZU, LNU and SCU complexes are between 26% and 35% contained Friday morning. At last check, smoke was the worst in San Francisco, around Oakland and in the Santa Cruz mountains. Air quality was also bad further north in Mendocino County.

"The winds are erratic, so Friday is going to be bad," says Nicco.

LIVE: Track air quality levels impacted by smoke from San Francisco Bay Area wildfires

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We could see clearer skies Saturday as we get more of an onshore breeze, but Sunday's wind pattern looks a lot more like Friday's, meaning air quality could be poor again.

"After Sunday, it all depends on how much smoke they're belching out."

A Spare the Air Alert is in effect for the Bay Area through Sunday.