San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced counties under health caution as wildfire smoke drifts into the valley

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SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) — The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District issued a health caution as gusty winds pushed smoke into the valley.

“It’s very gloomy, like the sun wants to come out, but there’s like no clouds,” said local student Astrid Aguliar.

Aguilar and Lanna Torres said they’ve noticed a change in the air quality. 

“Like a couple weeks ago it was raining ash outside,” Torres said. 

“All that smoke with the current pressure system that we have is just, you know, coming right into the San Joaquin Valley and lingering on top of us,” said Cassandra Melching, with the San Joaquin Valley APCD.

Melching told FOX40 that the shift in the winds prompted the district to issue a health caution for San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced counties.  

“It’s like a bowl, we have mountains on all sides of us,” she explained. “And so what, essentially, that means is that any type of pollutant that’s created, whether that be, you know, through the daily business or through forest fires, it has nowhere to go. It blows into the valley, and then it gets trapped by those mountains and it becomes stuck.”

The smoke and dust pollute the air with particulate matter, which at elevated levels can be a health hazard for pets and people. 

“It’s really, really detrimental to one’s health,” Melching said. “It can trigger asthma attacks, aggravate chronic bronchitis. It increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and so it’s a very gnarly pollutant.”

Satellite images show the smoke high in the air, blanketing the San Joaquin Valley. 

Right now, the air quality is only at a level 2 in parts of San Joaquin County, but the district expects it to take a turn for the worse in the coming days. 

“Eventually, what goes up must come down,” Melching said. “So, you know, in certain areas, folks are going to smell the smoke and they’re going to see ash falling, and that’s how you know you’re definitely being impacted. And when you come across that scenario, stay indoors where there’s cool, filtered air and limit your exposure.”

The air district recommends downloading the Valley Air App. With a touch of a button, users can monitor the air quality in real-time. 

“And that will give you hourly air quality concentrations for any specific site,” Melching told FOX40. “You can type in an address and it’ll tell you exactly what air quality is like.”

Torres and Aguilar said as long as the fires are burning, they’ll do their best to pay attention to the air quality and plan their activities accordingly.

“Just try to stay indoors, stay hydrated, don’t go out too much and breathe all the bad air,” Torres said.

“It does affect your health and the way you breathe, and like, you really have to watch what you do,” Aguilar said.

According to the San Joaquin Valley APCD, the health caution will remain in place until the fires impacting the region are extinguished or until the smoke can no longer impact the region.

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