NOVATO (KPIX) — The city of Novato is known for its crisp clean air blowing in from the ocean, a few miles to the west but not this week.

Now, Bay Area residents have been breathing smoke from wildfires burning across the Bay Area and for the last few days, Novato’s smoke has sometimes been three times as dense, three times as thick — some of the worst air in the Bay Area.

It’s all due to Lucas Valley that normally channels fresh air across West Marin into Novato. The Woodward Fire burning in Pt. Reyes happens to be nearby, so now the onshore breeze concentrates the smoke into Novato via Lucas Valley.

Adriana Low is visiting from Concord.

“I was surprised, yes,” said Low. “I thought it might have hopefully been clearing up so I was quite surprised.”

Isnold Toussaint lives in Novato and has some advice.

“Do not come out because it’s really bad,” he says.

Unbeknownst to some, the little blue paper mask may help keep us safer from COVID-19 but against smoke, not so much.

“Mask are good but if you’re looking purely at the question of how much does it protect you from particulate matter, then surgical mask are not very effective in that regard,” says Dr. Ballard.

He says the N 95 Or N 100 masks do a much better job of keeping smoke from our lungs.

“We’re going to continue to see smoke from this fire, and other fires for the next couple weeks,” says Ballard.

So, it’s an odd freak of nature that Novato is getting so much dense smoke. Don’t count on those little blue surgical masks to provide much protection.

“Pray, that hopefully that the fire will go away, they will get rid of it!” says Toussaint.