Will smoke from Kincade Fire affect Sacramento? Here’s the weekend air quality outlook

As the Kincade Fire continues to burn more than 21,000 acres in Sonoma County, smoke billowing from the wildfire has already shifted directions multiple times but local air districts are currently predicting only “moderate” air quality impacts near Sacramento.

In a “smoke update” on the Spare the Air website, the air districts explain that north-northwesterly winds on Thursday kept “pollutants well dispersed in the Sacramento region,” but that “winds developing midday will gradually transport smoke from the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County into Yolo, Solano, and western Sacramento counties, increasing particle levels and enhancing ozone formation.”

As of Friday morning, the Air Quality Index forecast for particulate matter (PM2.5), the type of pollution most closely associated with wildfire smoke, is expected to remain in the 70s on Friday and Saturday, according to SpareTheAir.com, the public information website of the Sacramento Metropolitan, El Dorado, Feather River, Placer and Yolo-Solano air districts.

Any AQI reading between 50 and 99 is considered a “moderate” level of air pollution, the second-lowest category on that scale, while an AQI of 100 to 149 is designated “unhealthy for sensitive groups.” Higher readings range from “unhealthy” to “hazardous.”

In other words, air quality effects should be relatively minor in the Sacramento region Friday and Saturday unless there is a significant change to smoke output from the Kincade Fire.

“As a result, ozone and particle levels will be Moderate. Saturday, lingering smoke from the Kincade Fire will continue to impact the region,” the districts reported.

But starting Saturday afternoon and lasting through Monday, sustained “north-northwesterly winds” are expected to carry pollutants away, reducing smoke impact.

Radar forecasts posted online Friday by the National Weather Service also show the immediate smoke of the Kincade Fire missing Sacramento County. The images show that heavy near-surface smoke is expected to linger in the North Bay area, with light-to-moderate levels of smoke traveling south toward the San Francisco and East Bay areas.

The Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District has, in previous statements, said that a wise rule of thumb with wildfire smoke is to trust your senses. If you can smell or see smoke, it is probably best to stay indoors.

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Michael McGough anchors The Sacramento Bee’s breaking news reporting team, covering public safety and other local stories. A Sacramento native and lifelong capital resident, he interned at The Bee while attending Sacramento State, where he earned a degree in journalism.