Weather News

Skies in the Sacramento area are smoky. Here’s why, and when the air will clear up

Smoke from a wildfire in the Eldorado National Forest is casting a haze over parts of the Sierra foothills and into the Sacramento Valley, reducing air quality through the weekend.

Light morning winds pushed smoke from the Caples Fire into the foothills of El Dorado and Placer counties and eastern Sacramento County on Friday, and will continue to do so through Sunday, according to the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District.

Afternoon winds from the west will ultimately disperse the smoke and bring cleaner air to the area each day, air quality officials reported.

Most of the smoke will remain over the Sierra south of Interstate 80, according to the National Weather Service. El Dorado and Placer counties will bear the brunt of low quality air, while conditions in Sacramento, Yolo and Solano counties remain better.

The Caples Fire started as a prescribed burn Sept. 30 to reduce fuel and create defensible space. But when winds changed Thursday afternoon, rapidly pushing flames south and west, officials declared it a wildfire to obtain additional fire fighting resources. The fire, still within its planned prescribed burn area, has scorched 2,100 acres and is 25 percent contained, as of Friday night.

Favorable conditions helped crews, the U.S. Forest Service said in a news release Saturday morning. The fire is burning 3 miles west of the Kirkwood resort areas and 15 miles south of South Lake Tahoe.

“Minimal fire activity on the fire last night due to near freezing nighttime temperatures, high relative humidity, and very light winds,” officials from the Eldorado National Forest said Saturday morning. “The fire is 2,100 acres with the change due to more accurate mapping. ... The north side is in patrol and mop up status.” They said the focus will be on “south and east lines today.”

By declaring it a wildfire, federal officials were able to get resources from Cal Fire and other agencies to fight the blaze.

Officials from the Bay Area also issued Spare the Air advisory Saturday for areas around San Francisco due to wildfire smoke, downgrading alerts in place since Thursday due to smoke from the Briceburg Fire near Yosemite and the smaller Merrill Fire that broke out Thursday night in Contra Costa.

“While smoke is expected to remain aloft and is not forecast to exceed federal health standards, it will likely cause hazy skies,” the Bay Area Air Quality Management District said.

Skies should begin to clear up for the region Monday, according to Sacramento’s air quality officials.

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Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks covers Sacramento County and the cities and suburbs beyond the capital. She’s previously worked at The New York Times and NPR, and is a former Bee intern. She graduated from UC Berkeley, where she was the managing editor of The Daily Californian.
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