Report claims Northern CA wildfire smoke will reach 'unbearable' levels due to climate change

Climate scientists in the Bay Area say there are things the state can do to mitigate the fires, but the smoke will stick around.
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A report issued this week from Princeton University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows wildfire smoke in Northern California will reach higher levels than originally thought. The report says climate change will not only fuel the fires themselves, but also the weather surrounding the fires - making the smoke worse.

"We have seen more intense fires in recent years," said Paul Lowenthal with Santa Rosa Fire. "Things are changing, our community protection wildfire plan has taken into account climate change."

Climate scientists in the Bay Area say there are things the state can do to mitigate the fires, but the smoke will stick around.

"We are going to see a future full of more smoke," said Dr. Scott Stephens, Professor of Wildland Fire Science at U.C. Berkeley. "That is smoke from prescribed burns, and it is also smoke from the wildfires themselves."

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Dr. Stephens says climate change is certainly a factor in the wildfires, but there are things the state can do to limit the fires from reaching levels seen in recent years.

"We have to focus on the vulnerability," he said. "We can try and reduce that vulnerability by prescribed burns, restoration, thinning and other methods."

However, scientists at San Jose State warn the smoke will be toxic for those in it's path.

"The toxicity of the wildfire smoke gets worse after it lingers in the air for hours or days," said Minghui Diao, Associate Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science at SJSU. "Those chemicals are especially bad for our health."

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This is why fire officials say people need to start preparing their homes now.

"Hopefully we will get through another season without any significant damage," Lowenthal said. "We have to be prepared for what potentially is becoming the new normal."

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