Bay Area hits record for number of Spare the Air alerts in 2020

Smoke from wildfires has pushed the number of Spare the Air alerts for the Bay Area past previous annual records and the figure continues to climb, air district officials said Saturday.

The previous record for alerts was 46 days in 2017, an air district spokesperson said. The Bay Area surpassed that on Friday with the 47th air alert this year. And, on Saturday, the air district announced a Spare the Air for the region would be extended through Tuesday, marking the 51st such alert in 2020.

The alerts have been recently triggered by smoke drifting to the region from blazes burning in Northern California forests — the August Complex and Red Salmon Complex fires. Although onshore winds will blow the smoke from much of the Bay Area, impacts are still possible.

“Unfortunately, fires inside and outside of the region are still producing smoke and impacting air quality here in the Bay Area,” said Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the air district. “This is a reminder that we are still in wildfire season and we must remain vigilant and stay indoors when smoke is impacting air quality to protect our health.”

During a Spare the Air Alert, it is illegal for Bay Area residents and businesses to use fireplaces, wood stoves, pellet stoves, outdoor fire pits or any other wood-burning devices. The public can help reduce air pollution by reducing driving, avoid using lawn mowers and leaf blowers and cook indoors instead of on the barbecue, air district officials said.

The alerts are sent out when ozone or particulate pollution is forecast to reach unhealthy levels. When smoke reaches unhealthy levels, it is important that Bay Area residents protect their health by avoiding exposure, according to the air district. Smoke can irritate the eyes and airways, causing coughing, a dry scratchy throat and irritated sinuses. Elevated particulate matter in the air can trigger wheezing in those who suffer from asthma, emphysema or COPD.

Elderly persons, children and individuals with respiratory illnesses are particularly susceptible to elevated air pollution levels and should take extra precautions to avoid exposure, according to the air district.

To find out when a Spare the Air Alert is in effect, residents can sign up for text alerts by texting the word “START” to 817-57, register for email AirAlerts at www.sparetheair.org, call 1(800) HELP-AIR, download the Spare the Air App or connect with Spare the Air on Facebook or Twitter.

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