Air quality experts warn to keep indoors while wildfire smoke blankets Central Valley

Local News

SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) – From the grey and hazy skies in San Joaquin and Sacramento counties, to yellow and orange-tinted skies in Yuba and Solano counties, smoke blankets the air across all of the Central Valley. 

“It absolutely looks like a mid-December day outside, except until you get outside you feel the heat. the sky is full of smoke,” said Heather Heinks, the spokeswoman for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. “The air quality in the Central Valley is very unhealthy and it actually almost doesn’t matter which way the wind direction is blowing. We’re literally surrounded by wildfires.”

Heinks told FOX40 that with smoke and ash in the air, it’s recommended that those in sensitive groups stay indoors and even healthy people lessen their exposure to particulate matter pollution. 

“Those those thin masks that we use to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, do not prevent you from inhaling, a tiny microscopic particulate matter pollution. That’s what we want to stress. It’s not OK to just throw in one of those masks and go for a run,” Heinks explained. 

Sacramento Metro Air Quality Management index maps show, red, unhealthy air quality stretching from Sacramento to Modesto throughout the day Wednesday. 

Air quality experts say it’s important to pay attention— if you can see the ash falling or smell smoke it’s best to stay indoors because it could impact your health. 

“You breathe in those tiny particulate matter pieces and it’s foreign matter in your body. And it goes into your bloodstream and it makes any existing condition worse if you’ve got asthma, bronchitis, any kind of respiratory condition. Exposure to particulate matter pollution is going to exacerbate those conditions and make them worse,” Heinks said.

Heinks said the air quality has been poor since August and has recently gotten worse as the Creek and Bear fires continue to grow and the lightning complex fires continue producing smoke.

She said she doesn’t see it improving much in the next few days.

“This particulate matter pollution is going to linger with us for weeks unfortunately, until we get a major system, major wind mass change of air mass, to move it out,” Heinks explained. “It’s not going to leave.”

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