Wildfires spark ‘Spare the Air’ alert in Richmond and beyond

Wildfires spark ‘Spare the Air’ alert in Richmond and beyond
Wildfires cause smoky skies over Richmond on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020. (Photo credit: Kathy Chouteau)

By Kathy Chouteau

A Spare the Air alert has been issued by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District for wildfire smoke through today, prohibiting the burning of wood, manufactured fire logs or any other solid fuel indoors and outdoors. The alert was prompted by wildfire smoke from multiple fires sparked by lightning over the weekend, resulting in elevated particulate pollution in the Bay Area, per the Air District.

This morning, residents of Richmond and surrounding communities woke up to cities swathed in smoke and a smoldering scent in the air from the wildfires, with the current air quality index for the San Pablo-Rumrill area logging in at 98 (moderate) on the scale. Hourly updates on local air quality can be accessed here.

Cal Fire is reporting dozens of wildfires statewide, many of them caused by the recent flurry of lightning strikes amid hot and dry conditions. Among them are the LNU Lightning Complex fire that has forced evacuations in Solano County and Vacaville, and the SCU Lightning Complex fires, a series of about 20 separate wildfires that includes the Deer Zone fires in Brentwood.  You can receive updates about them on Cal Fire’s incident report page.

“Multiple wildfires inside and outside of the Bay Area are creating an unhealthy breathing environment,” said Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the Air District. “With the added risk of COVID-19 on respiratory health, it’s crucial that we all do our part to reduce air pollution and take precautions to reduce exposure.”

Contra Costa Health Services is advising residents to remain indoors with doors and windows closed, to avoid contact with the smoke and minimize any time spent outdoors, especially older adults, pregnant women, and people who have asthma, lung or heart disease.

“Common symptoms of smoke exposure include coughing, scratchy throat, headaches and irritated eyes, nose and throat,” according to CCHS. “People with asthma should continue to follow their asthma plan, and those with chronic lung or heart disease should continue to take their medications regularly.”

Call 911 if you experience symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest pain or chest tightness may require immediate medical attention, according to CCHS.