As KQED Science’s Craig Miller reported the other day, “Where there’s fire, there’s smoke. And when the fire is more than 200 square miles and growing like California’s Rim Fire, there’s a lot of it. And in that smoke is quite the witch’s brew of air pollutants.”
An air quality alert is in effect until Aug. 30 for Tuolomne County, where the fire has been burning for 12 days. The county air pollution control district is warning that “exposure to particle pollution can cause serious health problems, aggravate lung disease, cause asthma attacks and accute bronchitis, and increase risk of respiratory infections.”
The smoke has been traveling northeast, to the Tahoe area and beyond. The Tahoe Daily Tribune is reporting that it’s forcing cancellations of local athletic events.
In Nevada’s Washoe County, where Reno is located, a dense smoke advisory is in effect until 5 a.m. Thursday. The Reno Gazette-Journal says the Washoe County Health District’s air quality index was at 152 at 10 a.m.. The index lists a level of 151 to 200 as “unhealthy,” when “members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.” Above 200, you get into the “very unhealthy” and “hazardous” zones. The National Weather Service says the smoke could remain into Labor Day weekend.
The smoke has also had a negative impact on air quality in Placer and El Dorado counties in the Greater Sacramento area.
Here is a map of the air quality in the region surrounding the Rim Fire. And below is an animated gif showing the area of smoke dispersal from Wednesday at 2 p.m. to Friday at 2 a.m., as predicted by the EPA and other government agencies on the AirNow website.
AP is reporting the fire expanded to 292 square miles as of this afternoon, with containment holding at 23 percent. “But increasingly confident fire officials said they expect to fully surround it in three weeks, although it will burn for much longer than that,” the news agency said.