North Bay fires causing air quality concerns in Richmond

Richmond-area residents are huddling indoors amid poor air quality from the massive, devastating wildfires in the North Bay.

The West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) allowed classes to resume Tuesday despite reduced air quality. However, physical education and recesses were ordered indoors and all athletic practices and games have been cancelled. Maintenance crews shut off ventilation systems at all schools.

“Principals and teachers are taking precautions to limit student exposure to the smoke,” the district said, adding that it remains in contact with Contra Costa County health officials and is continuously monitoring the air quality.

“We are advising principals to monitor and remain vigilant to the air quality and health of our students and staff,” district officials said.

News reports early Tuesday stated at least 15 wildfires in nine Northern California counties killed at least 13 people, burned more than 2,000 homes and businesses and forced tens of thousands to evacuate.

The fires have impacted air quality Bay Area-wide, prompting health concerns.

Building Blocks for Kids Richmond Collaborative at 312 9th St and Kaiser Richmond at 901 Nevin Ave. are offering free low-level protective masks to those affected by the poor air quality resulting from the North Bay fires.

“If you have asthma or another lung disease, or heart disease, inhaling wildfire smoke can be especially harmful,” health officials said.

A guide on how to properly use the masks can be found here.

Meanwhile, county officials are monitoring air quality as the fire threat continues. The city closed down the Plunge swim facility in Point Richmond indefinitely due to the poor air.

“Efforts to contain the fires were helped some by calmer winds overnight; but emergency officials cautioned that the conditions, particularly winds that at times exceeded 50 mph, could exacerbate the wildfires in the days ahead,” according to a Washington Post report.

Richmond sent three police officers and a team of firefighters Monday to aid efforts in the North Bay.

The police officers “went to Santa Rosa as part of a mutual aid request to help evacuate and rescue residents, and [Monday] afternoon, also as part of mutual aid, a team of Richmond firefighters were deployed to assist with efforts in both Sonoma and Napa County,” according to city officials.

“Our thoughts remain with the victims of the wildfires and we’re proud of Richmond’s first responders for being at the ready to assist our neighbors in the North Bay during this time of need,” officials said.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has advised residents to limit outdoor activities; set air conditioning units and car vent systems to re-circulate to prevent outside air from moving inside; reduce exposure to smoky air by remaining indoors with windows and doors closed; if you cannot keep windows and doors closed due to high temperatures, seek out
cooling centers in your area; and stay tuned to local media for changes in smoke or weather conditions.