Early morning smoke settles in near Tahoe City
October 22, 2008
Neighborhoods and businesses on North Lake Boulevard near Tahoe City continue to battle early morning smoke from prescribed fires in the Tahoe Basin. Smoke hangs thick in the air between Rocky Ridge Road and Lake Forest Road.
Though the smoke usually clears out as winds pick up later in the morning, many are affected by the strong odor that permeates buildings, cars and houses.
“It is really bad in our office,” said O’Neal Brokers Property Manager Laura Ioli.
“Smoke gets in through the mail drop in our door and it’s just as hazy in the office as it is outside.”
Ioli, who commutes to the O’Neal office at the base of Rocky Ridge Road, said the smoke only causes minor discomfort, the smell worse than anything.
“I forget about it on the drive from Truckee,” said Ioli, “but when you come around the corner it smells like your in a bonfire.”
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Though Ioli can manage the early morning discomfort, co-worker Lisa Klein must worry about her asthma.
“The smoke just exacerbates everything,” said Klein. “I woke up this morning with an awful headache.”
The North Tahoe Fire Protection District and the U.S. Forest Service know the effects of smoke, taking precautions to keep people informed about burn schedules.
“We’re trying to collect a list of people with respiratory problems so we can alert them when we have prescribed burns,” said Fire Protection District Public Information Officer Ed Miller.
With autumn’s cool temperatures, moderate winds and humidity come ideal conditions for the Forest Service to initiate prescribed burns in areas where dangerous fuels have accumulated and could produce unwanted forest fires.
One of the most important elements of the prescribed burning process is restricting operation to weather conditions conducive to quick, safe burns. Fire managers will only begin burns under ideal conditions and will stop if monitored conditions change.
Though weather conditions are picked to help clear smoke during the day, overnight inversion has a tendency to bring smoke to residential valley areas.
As warm afternoon air cools overnight, its natural tendency is to sink and settle in low areas, brining smoke along with it. Coupled with calm morning winds, this inversion creates a layer of trapped smoke many have seen over the past few days.
Adding to the problem, the topography of the land can often set a path for cold air to follow. Low land between two ridges acts as a drainage for cold, sinking air. As smoke settles in this process, the lands drainage patterns can funnel smoke into neighborhoods, creating unpleasant conditions until afternoon winds clear the area.
While a number of prescribed burns are planned for the Tahoe Basin, residents should be prepared to deal with moderate amounts of smoke, especially in valley areas where inversion is likely.
The North Tahoe Fire Protection District is currently compiling a list of smoke sensitive individuals to be notified when prescribed burn activity will be taking place.
Call 530-546-2212 to be placed on the burn notification list.
Prescribed fires are expected near Dollar Hill and Chinquapin later this fall.