Officials trying to help residents be prepared for unhealthy air days

Local News

FOLSOM, Calif. (KTXL) — The ongoing wildfires continue to create hazardous breathing conditions throughout the Central Valley. 

One of the hardest-hit areas is Folsom. On AirNow.gov, the interactive smoke and fire map shows the air quality index near Lembi Park in Folsom is at unhealthy levels. 

Near Folsom Lake, it’s even worse, which may be why the popular landmark is empty. According to Amy MacPherson, with the California Air Resources Board, it’s for the best. 

“You may live near a burning fire, but if that wind shifts and that smoke hits you, you should be ready,” MacPherson said. 

She and other experts with the Environmental Protection Agency are making sure Californians are smoke ready for days like Friday, starting with understanding how to read a smoke map. 

“This circle is a regulatory air quality monitor, and so if we click on that, it’s the Tahoe City monitor,” said Phil Dickerson, with AirNow. “We can get the data, the trend, the actions and the current now cast. This is really one of the reasons why we created the AirNow fire and smoke map was to give people a tool to see how rapidly air quality can change.” 

Another important lesson in smoke protection is how to wear an N-95 respirator properly. 

“Starting with the straps, you’re wearing the straps of the mask correctly. That you’ve molded the nose piece to the shape of your nose. You need to make sure that it fits over your chin so that you’re not breathing smokey air in through the sides of the filter,” MacPherson explained. 

The best defense against smoke is wearing a NIOSH-approved N-95 mask outside, especially for those who are already at risk for respiratory infections. 

“Cloth masks will protect you against COVID-19; they won’t filter out the fine smoke particles that can get into your lungs and even your bloodstream,” MacPherson said. “It is all of our responsibilities to take that step to protect ourselves and our families now rather than after the smoke arrives.” 

On top of purchasing air filters and staying inside, downloading the EPA’s AirNow app to monitor air quality is recommended in order to check conditions in the area. 

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