Wildfires the length of California have burned nearly 400 square miles of land so far in July, forced thousands of firefighters onto the front lines and prompted the evacuations of towns as the flames advance.
But the fires are having an impact in areas far from the blazes, as smoke from the fires is prompting warnings statewide about air quality.
In the Sacramento region, air quality around Colfax was rated as among the worst in the state Thursday and classified as being in the “unhealthy range,” meaning “everyone may begin to experience health effects,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow page. Friday’s forecast was predicted to be unhealthy for sensitive groups such as children and the elderly.
Sacramento is expected to be spared any air problems through Thursday, with winds keeping much of the smoke away, said Jamie Arno of the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District.
“These things we look at day by day,” Arno said. “By the weekend, there is a possibility we may see smoke in Sacramento but right now the wind models are showing the winds that are at ground level are cooperating with us.”
Placer County and the foothills will have more of a problem with the smoke. Placer officials are warning there may be poor air quality through Sunday, especially in the Lake Tahoe area.
The AirNow site rated Placerville as unhealthy Thursday and Friday for sensitive groups, and Folsom and Lincoln both have similar forecasts for Thursday. Similar conditions are expected to spill over into Nevada, with the Reno-Sparks and Carson City areas seeing some unhealthy air conditions from the Long Valley Fire, which has consumed more than 80,000 acres about 50 miles north of Reno.
The main culprit is the Detwiler Fire burning west of Mariposa near Yosemite National Park. That fire has burned more than 70,000 aces since Sunday, and the impact on air quality in the immediate region can readily be seen on in the hazy conditions captured on Yosemite webcams.
Elsewhere in the state, travelers to the Los Angeles area may be looking at moderate conditions, while some of the best air quality will be found in the Monterey Bay area.