SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A plume of unhealthy, smoke-filled air sent skyward by dozens of wildfires burning across the West Coast has forced local residents to remain shuttered indoors this weekend. Here is a roundup of the latest smoke-related stories from KPIX.com and the KPIX 5 news team.


Bay Area Residents Look To Escape Dangers Of Wildfire Smoke
SAN FRANCISCO — There are currently a total of 28 active fires in California helping to fill San Francisco Bay Area skies with unhealthy levels of smoke and forcing local residents to remain indoors. But after months of being confined by COVID, many people are now wondering just how far they have to drive or fly to escape the misery and dangers from wildfire smoke. No matter where you looked Saturday, the Bay Area was smothered in smoke. It has drifted to the east into Reno and beyond. Officials there are also telling people to expect very unhealthy air quality through the weekend. “I’m always the person who’s like let me go on Priceline and book a flight. So there wasn’t much behind it besides me wanting to leave and just curious what it looks like other places,” said Maria de Vera of Pinole. Read More

Stanford Doctor’s Advice — Keep Your Children Indoors
SAN FRANCISCO — Some parents have been wondering if it’s better to take your children outside to get some exercise, instead of staying inside for days even if the air is considered unhealthy. One Stanford University pediatrician says she’s not taking her young children outside, not even for one-minute in these conditions. “This isn’t going to be the last time that we are going to be suffering from this exposure so I’m thinking about not just today or next week, but I’m thinking about my child and all children’s long-term health,” said Dr. Lisa Patel of Stanford Children’s Health. Doctors say when the smaller particulate matter is inhaled, especially by children, that can damage the lining of airways, and vital cells called Alveolar Macrophages deep in the lungs. Read More

North Complex West Zone Update: Death Toll Climbs To 12; Search Teams Discover 3 New Bodies; 13 Remain Missing
CHICO — The death toll of the massive North Complex West Zone fire grew to 12 on Saturday as search teams recovered remains of three new victims among the ruins left behind by the wall of flames that has ripped through the small mountain communities near Lake Oroville. Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea made the grim announcement at Saturday night’s fire update. He could not give any additional details about where the bodies were recovered. He said of the 174 calls received by his agency concerning missing individuals, 149 have been found safe. There were 13 people still missing. The Bear Creek portion of the North Complex stood at 73,000 acres, was 10 percent contained and had destroyed at least 132 homes and 36 commercial structures. Read More

Wine Country Grape Growers Fear Significant Damage From Wildfire Smoke
POPE VALLEY — The smoke and ash from the wildfires seem to permeate every corner of the Bay Area but this is also home to one of the most renowned wine regions in the world and that’s presenting a tough choice for grape growers. Oscar Renteria manages thousands of acres of grapes in Pope Valley in the northeast corner of Napa County including vineyards right at the edge of the LNU Complex Fire. Of the 270 acres he owns himself, at least half have been affected by smoke damage. “That’s what I can predict right now,” Renteria said. “But I’ve got two more weeks to go to test and I’m not sure that I’m even going to pick some of mine. I may just take my losses and go home.” It’s a dilemma facing a lot of Bay Area grape growers right now: whether or not to harvest at all. Smoke damage, called “taint,” can affect the taste and aroma of wine and the industry doesn’t want to do anything to degrade the region’s reputation for quality. Read More

Cabin Fever Overcomes Smoky Air, Virus Concerns for Intrepid East Bay Diners
PLEASANTON (KPIX) — After several days with many businesses closed, people were back outin downtown Walnut Creek Saturday but traffic was still down at Main Street Kitchen. “We take what we can but this is one-third of what we normally do,” said Main Street owner Arash Ghasemi. “So this is not so great.” “The air quality the last couple days was pretty bad,” Kathy Hamilton said in downtown Livermore. “It was pretty nasty. It was in the red so I don’t know what it is today but we’ve got a breeze.” Some of the people out dining Saturday said they thought conditions had improved a little. “The sun has come out and we got a little heat now,” Hamilton said. “It was actually pretty cold the past couple days cause there was no sun.” Read More

How To Find The Best Air Quality Index (AQI) On The Web
SAN FRANCISCO — There is plenty of confusion when it comes to Air Quality Index readings during this time of smoke-filled skies from the historic outbreak of wildfires. There are numbers everywhere. Purple Air. Air Now. So what are the best numbers? KPIX 5 meteorologist Darren Peck relies on Air Now. “With air quality reaching their most unhealthy levels of the past 3 weeks, now is the most important time to be aware of the quality of the air before you go outside,” Peck said. “Many of us have gotten familiar with a few sources to check on (purpleair.com, airnow.com ….etc are two of the most commonly used) and there can be some confusion as to which ones are the most accurate….and why for that matter some give different readings than others.” Read More

San Jose Closes Parks; ‘We Have Smoke Coming At Us From Virtually All Directions’
SAN FRANCISCO — First it was the COVID-19 pandemic that kept Bay Area residents struck in their homes. On Saturday, it was a massive plume of wildfire smoke and ash stalled over the region. The Air Quality Index readings were hovering between a 175 in Redwood City to 187 in Livermore on Saturday morning. The vast majority of the AQI readings for all Bay Area communities fell into the red category — meaning the air was unhealthy to breathe. Bay Area air quality officials issued a ‘Spare the Air’ alert for a record 26th straight day and warned the conditions may not drastic improve until next week. “A thick blanket of smoke from the many wildfires blazing in California and Oregon is causing unhealthy air quality in the Bay Area,” said Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the Air District. “More than ever this weekend, residents should track air quality conditions in their communities and protect their health and avoid smoke exposure by staying indoors.” Read More

Lingering Smoke Pollution Leaves 49ers Season Opener Up in the Air
SANTA CLARA (KPIX) — As smoke blankets the Bay Area, the 49ers plan to play football at Levi’s Stadium even as a player didn’t practice Friday because of the poor air quality. Whether or not the San Francisco 49ers play this Sunday is up in the air thanks to the smoke-filled atmosphere but the team says it’s a decision that’s out of their hands. The 49ers are preparing for their season opener against the Arizona Cardinals, something a lot of fans view with skepticism. Longtime Niners fans Rafael and Martha Velez say they just can’t imagine them playing in air like this. But ask some of the players and they’ll tell you, the bad air won’t stop them from taking the first snap on Sunday. Read More

SF Streets Empty As Smoky Air, Raining Ash Force COVID-Weary Residents Back Inside
SAN FRANCISCO — Just a week out from the six-month anniversary of the coronavirus lockdown and new problems are falling out of the sky in San Francisco. “First we had to deal with the COVID and the shutdown,” says Maurice Darwish, owner of the Cove On Castro. “Then all of a sudden, we’ve got fires and smoke. It’s a very sad situation for everybody all around.” The slow-motion emergency just continues for Darwish. After closing his doors for three months, the outdoor partnership with the bar next door was just starting to work out. “We’re very pleased with it,” Darwish said. “But then again, you got a hit from the left side with the fires and the ash and the air.” With empty tables, deserted parks, and very slow streets, for the second day in a row, the bad air gave the city an emptiness that felt more like the start of the shutdown. Read More

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