SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – The Bay Area Air Quality Management District on Wednesday extended a health advisory and Spare the Air alert into the weekend, as wildfires in the wine country continue to rage.
Officials said smoke from the fires has led to “unprecedented” levels of air pollution throughout the Bay Area.READ MORE: Rising Sea Level Threatens Stinson Beach Neighborhoods
“Due to active wildfires and changing wind patterns, air quality could be impacted for many days to come. Outside of the active fire areas, air quality will be variable and unpredictable. Air quality may improve at times or get worse, very quickly,” the district said in a statement.
The National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center tweeted a satellite image Wednesday afternoon showing smoke drifting across the region.
Residents living dozens of miles from the fire zone, including San Francisco and San Jose, have complained about the smell of smoke since the fires broke out late Sunday night.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, wildfire smoke can irritate the respiratory system and worsen chronic heart disease. Older adults, pregnant women, children and those with preexisting heart and lung conditions are particularly vulnerable.READ MORE: Kaiser Employees Win $11.5 Million Class-Action, Race-Discrimination Lawsuit
The district has urged people living in the fire zones of Napa, Sonoma and Solano Counties to seek shelter in buildings with filtered air or to move to areas that are not as impacted by smoke until levels subside.
Residents of smoke-impacted areas who are forced to stay are being recommended to use an N95 mask to minimize breathing in fine particles in the smoke.
People in other parts of the Bay Area who see smoke are urged to stay indoors, keep windows and doors closed and to use air conditioners set to recirculated air.
The district recommends parents and school administrators to check the air quality map provided by the Environmental Protection Agency before allowing children outdoors.
Officials are also urging Bay Area residents to curtailing activities that pollute the air, such as wood burning, lawn mowing, barbecuing and driving, until conditions improve.
While residents throughout the Bay Area were struggling with breathing smoky air, travelers to the region also were also being impact as flights at San Francisco International were delayed by the hazy skies.
Flights into San Francisco International were being delayed by 2 ½ hours Wednesday afternoon by visibility issues presented by the smoky skies.
Tim Fang is a digital producer for CBS San Francisco and a native of the Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter @fangtj.