Families Trying to Celebrate the Summer Stay Cautious as Air Quality Concerns Rise

TURLOCK -- Air quality is always a concern when wildfires and summer temperatures combine.

Between the new spray park and additions to the playground, Graceada Park was the place to be early Monday afternoon.

With air quality sitting in the good to moderate range for Modesto for the early part of the day, families jumped at the chance to get outside, though some had their concerns.

"I was outside having coffee with my husband and I was like, 'I don’t know if we should go outside today because it’s just so smoky today,'" said Lauralee Rivera. "But I didn’t really smell a lot of ashes today, so I thought, 'Well, we will come out here.'"

"I think if the winds were maybe a little bit higher, if it were later in the day, we probably would stay at home," said Andrew Kranzman. "But yeah, definitely worry about it, certainly with a little one."

Just a few miles down Highway 99, the air quality in Turlock spiked drastically from moderate to very unhealthy in a span of several hours. A heavy haze sat over the city all afternoon as smoke from the fire burning north settled on the city.

"Lots of times we do see heavy impacts from wildfires and also it is a serious health concern," said Anthony Presto with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution District.

In Modesto, parents were more than happy to take on any air concerns to beat the heat for a few hours.

"In here, I mean, honestly, you have so much coverage here, so much trees, that you don’t even feel it. It feels nice and cool here," said Javier Avila.

Air quality and fireworks

As families get set to celebrate later this week with fireworks, air quality officials are issuing a warning that the air could very well be a problem.

They are what most everyone looks forward to -- firework shows lighting up the sky. But the show comes with a health risk.

"The type of pollution that comes from fireworks contains smoke, as well as metals, which are very dangerous to public health," Presto told FOX40.

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution District says air quality explodes to extremely unhealthy conditions on the Fourth of July and are urging people to refrain from personal firework shows to help spare the air.

"Please go to a professional fireworks display where the explosions are taking place aloft," Presto said. "They are not impacting us at ground level anywhere near as much as the personal fireworks do."

Officials say though there have been improvements in air quality for the valley over the past two decades, the area still falls well below federal standards in ozone and fine particulate matter.

"Ozone is like getting a sunburn on the inside of your lungs and you can feel that searing pain when there's high levels of ozone pollution. So it's a corrosive gas; damages lung tissue," Presto said. "Particulate matter actually increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. We see more fatalities from that than ozone pollution throughout the year in the San Joaquin Valley."

As families tried to beat the July heat at Graceada Park on Monday afternoon, the air quality concerns already elevated by the smoke from fires in the north bring down their chances of enjoying the holiday.

"I know it’s a temporary thing. Sometimes you just have to accept if you want to see fireworks, then you have to take what comes with it. But I’ve never seen it as a concern," Avila said.

If you are looking for professional fireworks show in the valley, the City of Turlock will be hosting theirs on the Stanislaus State campus on Wednesday starting at 7 p.m.

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