Officials expect poor Bay Area air quality to persist through weekend

Wildfire smoke returns from southwest

The Bay Area’s air quality deteriorated Friday as changing wind patterns filled the region with wildfire smoke once again after several days of relative relief for cities like San Francisco.

Light winds blew smoke into the area from the CZU Lightning Complex fires in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties, according to Aaron Richardson, spokesperson at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

The agency expects high levels of air pollution to persist in the region through the weekend and extended a Spare the Air alert through Sunday. The alert bans burning wood, manufactured fire logs or any other solid fuel both indoors and outdoors.

While San Francisco’s air quality has improved from the rating of unhealthy Friday morning to moderate as of 1 p.m., Richardson said the general air quality in the region is still much more polluted compared to the last few days. And conditions are fluctuating day to day.

“There is a good chance that sometime over the weekend, there will be a decision made to extend [the Spare the Air alert] into next week,” Richardson said.

Meanwhile, firefighters are making headway in containing the wildfires.

The CZU Lighting Complex fires were 26 percent contained, up from 19 percent on Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a news press conference.

In Sonoma, Lake and Napa counties, the LNU Lightning Complex fires were 35 percent contained as of Friday morning, up from 33 percent on Wednesday.

And firefighters have contained 35 percent of the SCU Lightning Complex fires in Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced and San Benito counties, up from 25 percent on Wednesday.

“The SCU Lighting Complex is now the second largest wildfire complex in our state’s history,” Cal Fire spokesperson Daniel Berlant said Friday morning.

The LNU Lighting Complex, meanwhile, has become the third largest wildfire complex in California’s history, he said.

Officials have said that bandanas, cloth masks, and general surgical masks used against COVID-19 are not effective against air pollution from wildfire smoke. Richardson noted that only N95 respirators would potentially protect people against wildfire pollution.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District urges people to stay indoors with windows and doors closed.

If temperatures are too hot indoors, visit an air-cooling center or other buildings with filtered air.

The agency also recommends residents set their air conditioning units and car vent systems to re-circulate, preventing outside air from reaching inside. Older adults, children, and people with respiratory illnesses should take extra precautions to avoid exposure to poor air pollution.

nchan@sfexaminer.com

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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