Air Alert: Bad air days ahead as officials issue health advisories for Truckee-Tahoe | SierraSun.com

Air Alert: Bad air days ahead as officials issue health advisories for Truckee-Tahoe

Jenny Goldsmith
Sierra Sun
Seth Lightcap/Sierra SunDense smoke blown in from wildland fires west of Truckee have led the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District to issue an air quality advisory for Tuesday and Wednesday in Eastern Nevada County. Despite the advisory that recommends limiting prolonged outdooor exertion, the docks on Donner Lake were full of sailors, swimmers, and dogs Tuesday afternoon.
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Truckee-Tahoe’s air quality will continue to be unhealthy for days to come as more than two dozen lightning-sparked wildfires in the region pump smoke into the atmosphere.

The hazy skies are expected to loom over Truckee and North Lake Tahoe until Friday when a west wind may blow some smoke out of the area, said Jane Hollingsworth, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Reno.

In the meantime, an air quality advisory remains in effect for the eastern portions of Placer and Nevada Counties. Individuals sensitive to air pollution including children, the elderly, asthmatics, adults with pre-existing heart and lung diseases, pregnant women and athletes should avoid outdoor activities, said Ryan Murano, a Truckee-based air pollution control specialist with the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District.

“As far as smoke impacts, this is the worse it’s been since 2001 when we opened the Truckee office,” Murano said. “Some people aren’t as sensitive as others so you should use your own judgment.”

The national standard set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for particulate matter over a 24-hour period is 35 micrograms per cubic meter, Murano said.

By 3 p.m. on Tuesday, the particle pollution level in Truckee was 71 micrograms per cubic meter and counting, but a 24-hour average had yet to be calculated, Murano said.

“I’m certain we will be in exceedance of the national standard by the end of [Tuesday],” Murano said.

Wildfires can also produce unhealthy ozone particulates, and although ozone levels are in the moderate to unhealthy range for Western Nevada County, Murano said ozone conditions in Truckee are mild.

“If the current air quality is enough to be an irritant for you, keep your heart rate low,” Murano said.

Placer County officials were also urging residents to limit time spent outside.

“If you can see or smell smoke, you should limit outdoor physical activities, and strongly consider canceling outdoor sporting events and other group activities that involve physical exertion,” said Dr. Richard Burton, Placer County health officer.

While firefighters have contained many of the roughly 25 blazes sparked by lightning on the Sierra’s west slope Saturday, a few bigger fires are showing no signs of being contained.

The Scotchman Fire above the Nevada County community of Washington reached an estimated 500 acres as of Tuesday. And while air support reached the fire Monday, there hasn’t yet been any containment, said Kathy Vanzuuk with the U.S. Forest Service.

“It’s one of our priorities because it’s near people and structures, but we haven’t had any evacuations,” Vanzuuk said.

Washington Road off of Highway 20 Between Nevada City and Interstate 80 is restricted to residents, people with reservations to stay in the town, and firefighters, Vanzuuk said.

The Fall Fire near Bowman Road off of Highway 20 near I-80 has also grown, reaching an estimated 1,300 acres as of Tuesday, she said.

Bowman Road is also closed to everybody but residents, Vanzuuk said.

“We’ve got quite a bit of personnel and equipment on the Yuba River Complex of fires,” Vanzuuk said.

Along the American River, the Foresthill fire has been contained at 70 acres, but the Government Fire is still burning at 1,000 acres, she said.