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Area wildfires, poor air quality a detriment to seniors
by Jill Lufrano
Aug 15, 2012 | 2524 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/John Byrne
A thick grey haze hung over the Reno-Sparks skyline Tuesday. This view came from Geiger Grade Tuesday afternoon.
Tribune/John Byrne A thick grey haze hung over the Reno-Sparks skyline Tuesday. This view came from Geiger Grade Tuesday afternoon.

SPARKS – Smoke from surrounding fires, especially blown over the region from the Plumas, Calif. area where the Chips fire — a two-week-old wildfire continues to rage out of control – has scorched some 35,800 acres in the Feather River Canyon, has left many in the Reno-Sparks region with breathing problems.

The fire, which started July 29 along the Pacific Crest Trail, has continued to blow into the region, following a weather pattern that is expected to remain in place for the next week, according to weather and air quality experts.

“Right now we’re looking for the same weather pattern as it is today, with afternoon and evening clearing and smoke settling back in the evening and into the night, “ said Daniel Inouye, branch chief for Washoe County’s Air Quality management Division. For many elderly residents, or those who have difficulty with breathing issues, the small particulates in the air can cause several health-related problems,” Inouye said.

For those who experience these problems, a phone line has been activated by the county and updated every morning. For daily air quality information, those interested in finding out the latest air quality information can call 775-785-4110.

Tuesday’s air quality information recording told callers that the smoke was elevated and contained particulate matter for portions of Washoe County. The temperatures remained in the 94- to 99-degree mark.

Tuesday’s readings showed that the air quality index for fine particulate matter in the evening was holding at the 2.5 level, which was in the moderate range, Inouye said.

“We’ve seen these elevated levels compared to earlier this week. We expect clearing and settling overnight. We’re expecting similar weather afternoon and some thunderstorms. If they bring dry lightning, they could start additional fires.”

Anyone who smells smoke and feels the affects should take precautionary measures.

“In general, if you smell smoke and it’s affecting you, take precautionary measures,” he said. “Reduce your physical or strenuous activity. It’s different for each individual person.”

The most ideal placed to go is indoors with windows closed and if possible turn on the air conditioning. Even if driving in a car, turning the air conditioning on and having it recirculate will help conditions for those with breathing difficulties, he said.

“It effects everyone differently,” Inouye said. “If you think you’re feeling some of effects, take rests, drink plenty of fluids, which goes with heat-related preventative measures also. Make sure you’re hydrated.”

Fires are typically extremely unpredictable, blowing wind and smoke in various directions, and making wind patterns naturally. The county has monitors in the Reno-Sparks area for many reasons, as wind and weather in the region can vary rapidly.

“They may show different levels,” Inouye said. ”What doesn’t work (to keep smoke out of lungs) are those dust masks for carpentry. Face masks don’t work. Real common masks aren’t going to work for smoke.”

The main thing is, smoke can be localized and affects everyone differently, he said.

“It can be serious,” Inouye said.
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