SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) issued a Spare The Air advisory Thursday as smoke from wildfires from all across the Pacific Northwest makes its way to the Bay Area.

The alert, which started Thursday and expires Friday, Aug. 20, bans the burning of wood or any other solid fuel, both indoors and outdoors.

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The BAAQMD issued the alert as smoke reached the area from wildfires in Washington, Oregon and higher north in California. One fire, the Caldor Fire in the El Dorado National Forest, burned over 65,000 acres by Thursday and was still zero percent contained.

“Multiple wildfires burning on the West Coast are expected to cause unhealthy air quality throughout the region,” said Jack Broadbent, BAAQMD executive officer. “As respiratory health is top of mind for all of us during the pandemic, it’s crucial that residents take steps to avoid exposure to unhealthy air.”

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is the regional agency responsible for protecting air quality in the Bay Area’s nine counties. The district issues Spare the Air Alerts when ozone or particulate matter pollution is forecast to reach unhealthy levels.

The air district had previously issued air quality advisories for the two days but had said it did not expect air quality in the region to be bad enough to exceed federal standards and prompt the more serious Spare the Air alert, during which wood burning is banned both indoors and outdoors.

“There’s a huge smoke plume over the Bay Area … it had been trickling down a little bit but mostly staying healthy at ground level,” air district spokesman Aaron Richardson said. “The fires everywhere have just kicked up so much yesterday and today, so there are higher levels than expected.”

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The air quality wasn’t exceeding federal health levels in most of the region as of midday Thursday but was expected to deteriorate as the day goes along, Richardson said.

If people smell smoke, they should stay inside with windows and doors closed, and set their air conditioning or car vent systems to recirculate air to prevent outside air from coming inside their building or vehicle.

The air district will monitor air quality in the region and determine if more Spare the Air alerts will be necessary over the weekend, but Richardson said there is “some hope there will be a wind shift and a little bit of a system coming in” that will push the smoke out of the Bay Area.

Residents can keep track of changes in air quality at baaqmd.gov/highs or the AirNow Fire and Smoke Map at fire.airnow.gov..

To find out when a Spare the Air Alert is in effect, residents can sign up for text alerts by texting the word “START” to 817-57, register for email AirAlerts at sparetheair.org, call 1(800) HELP-AIR, download the Spare the Air App or connect with Spare the Air on Facebook or Twitter.

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