The Washoe County Health District announced this week that ozone air pollution is at its worst level in 10 years in Reno-Sparks and people who suffer from heart disease, lung disease, children, seniors and those active in the outdoors are especially at risk.
Several wildfires in California and Nevada are bringing heavy smoke into the area, and as of Monday evening there is no sign of improvement in the air quality.
As of Monday, the Perry Fire south of Pyramid Lake burned 42,400 acres and was 15 percent contained. While no structures were reported as damaged, 130 people evacuated their homes in Palomino Valley and more than 300 animals have been housed at the Ironwood Events Center. A 12-mile stretch of SR-446 has been closed in both directions between Nixon and Pyramid Lake.
The Carr Fire in Northern California that has burned over 98,000 acres and is only 20 percent contained (as of July 30) is thought to be caused by mechanical vehicular failure. Two Nevada Army Guard helicopters were deployed on July 30 to fight the fires in Lakeport, California (a CH-47 Chinook with a 2,000-gallon water bucket along with a UH-60 Black Hawk) where 56,000 acres have already burned.
Exposure to wildfire smoke can elicit eye and respiratory tract irritations to more serious issues such as bronchitis, heightened asthma problems, and even premature death.
As devastating fires break out all over Northern Nevada and California, fire departments are urging people to pay close attention on ways to prevent wildfires.
They say it takes is one spark combined with hot temperatures, lack of humidity, and dry vegetation to spread and destroy homes and structures in its path. Therefore, the Northern Nevada Fire Chiefs have offered six quick reminders on how to do your part to prevent a forest fire:
• Do not use tools that alone- or when in contact with other materials- can generate sparks.
• When digging with heavy equipment or using small mowers or other equipment, do so when the humidity is high and wind speed is less than five miles per hour. When you can, try to pre-wet the area so that the moisture in the vegetation is higher.
• When towing, ensure that all chains are high and do not come in contact with the ground. Make sure that nothing is hanging beneath your vehicle and dragging on the pavement, even when driving into ramped driveways.
• Don’t toss any type of ignition source on the ground or out the window of your vehicle.
• When parking along the roadway or any area for any period of time, ensure that your vehicle does not come into contact with vegetation. Always park in areas intended for vehicle parking.
• Check your tire pressure before you travel. Low air pressure in tires expose wheel rims so as to come in contact with the pavement and can cause sparks.
Central Lyon County Fire Protection District Chief Rich Harvey says that the most common cause of fires in Northern Nevada has been from target shooters, but he has also seen instances of hot vehicle exhaust coming into contact with dry vegetation, powerline conflicts, and even campers burning debris.
“Pretty much anything that can cause a spark can start a fire,” he says. A vehicle tire that goes flat and the metal rim comes in contact with the pavement can ignite a spark, a metal chain dragging on the concrete, or parking in dry grass can all become a much bigger problem.
Harvey says that firefighters use a Probability of Ignition (PIG) table to estimate how great fire danger is, estimated from air temperatures, 1-hour fuel moisture content, and cloud or forest canopy cover. Right now he says that in Northern Nevada the probability of ignition is well over 80-90 percent.
“We can’t change fuel type or weather but we can change (human-caused) ignition sources,” Harvey says.
Western Village Inn and Casino in Sparks is offering a $25 evacuation room rate to those affected by wildfires in the region. Pets are welcome, and the daily pet fee will be waived for evacuees (however, a $100 refundable pet deposit is required). Must show proof of address to receive the discounted rate.
Here are some recommendations from the Health District on how to protect yourself from wildfire smoke:
• Stop or reduce outdoor activity; stay inside and reduce activity.
• Keep air conditioner on if available, the fresh-air intake close, filter clean, and windows closed.
• Don’t use whole-house fans and swamp coolers. Consider using a portable air purifier.
• Pay attention to air quality updates on AirNow.gov, OurCleanAir.com, and local media.
• Follow the advice of your doctor especially those with heart or lung disease.
• Keep in mind that wet or dry clothes, dust, or surgical masks will not protect you from ozone or fine particulates.
• If you are a healthy adult, N95 or P100 respirators can provide some protection from fine particulates if you have to be outside.
• Stay hydrated.
• Keep indoor air clean. Don’t burn candles, vacuum, or smoke tobacco products.
• Consider relocating temporarily.