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Plumas County is filled with smoke, but that didn’t matter to Spencer who enjoyed some time at Long Lake this week. Every day is a good day for a swim. Photo by Sue McCourt

Smoky skies everywhere

It really doesn’t matter where you are in Plumas County, or the rest of California for that matter, the air quality is unhealthy.

Yesterday the Quincy area saw an increase in smoke as the Bear Fire expanded rapidly. It is located in steep terrain near the Pacific Crest Trail, 4 miles from Bucks Lake and 6 miles from Meadow Valley. For a fire and smoke map, go to https://fire.airnow.gov/

Health experts advise residents to stay indoors and circulate the air if possible. If an individual needs to go outside, they should limit exposure and wear a mask if possible. But not just any mask. While a fabric mask will help stop the spread of coronavirus, it won’t stop the small particulates from smoke from entering your lungs. A N95 without a vent hole is recommended, but are in scare supply during the pandemic.

Following are eight tips from the CDC to protect yourself from wildfire smoke:

If possible, limit your exposure to smoke. Here are eight tips to help you protect your health:

  1. Pay attention to local air quality reports and the US Air Quality IndexExternal . When a wildfire occurs in your area, watch for news or health warnings about smoke. Pay attention to public health messages and take extra safety measures such as avoiding spending time outdoors.
  2. Pay attention to visibility guides if they are available. Although not every community measures the amount of particles in the air, some communities in the western United States have guidelines to help people estimate air quality based on how far they can see.
  3. If you are told to stay indoors, stay indoors and keep your indoor air as clean as possible. Keep windows and doors closed unless it is very hot outside. Run an air conditioner if you have one, but keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside. Seek shelter elsewhere if you do not have an air conditioner and it is too warm to stay inside with the windows closed.
  4. Use an air filter. Use a freestanding indoor air filter with particle removal to help protect people with heart disease, asthma or other respiratory conditions and the elderly and children from the effects of wildfire smoke. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on filter replacement and where to place the device.
  5. Do not add to indoor pollution. When smoke levels are high, do not use anything that burns, such as candles and fireplaces. Do not vacuum, because vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home. Do not smoke tobacco or other products, because smoking puts even more pollution into the air.
  6. Follow your doctor’s advice about medicines and about your respiratory management plan if you have asthma or another lung disease or cardiovascular disease. Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen.
  7. Do not rely on dust masks for protection. Paper “comfort” or “dust” masks commonly found at hardware stores trap large particles, such as sawdust. These masks will not protect your lungs from smoke. An “N95” mask, properly worn, will offer some protection. If you decide to keep a mask on hand, see the Respirator Fact Sheet provided by CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
  8. Avoid smoke exposure during outdoor recreation. Wildfires and prescribed burns—fires that are set on purpose to manage land—can create smoky conditions. Before you travel to a park or forest, check to see if any wildfires are happening or if any prescribed burns are planned.

The Plumas County Public Health Agency made a informative video that can be viewed by going to its website or Facebook page.

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