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Sonoma County public health officials issue poor air quality warning due to Kincade fire

Sonoma County public health officials warned residents Friday of “unhealthy” air quality in parts of the county from smoke that has drifted miles south from the Kincade fire burning near Geyserville and the Alexander Valley.

Those areas to the north will be in most danger. For example, there was a visible smoky haze hanging over Healdsburg at lunchtime.

Public health officials said changing wind patterns are making air quality unpredictable and the smoke health advisory of foul air will remain in effect until air quality improves significantly. Air quality is expected to worsen this weekend, because the smoke from the wildfire is blowing south.

Officials said people may start to experience adverse health effects, particularly children, pregnant women, the elderly and residents with respiratory conditions such as asthma, lung disease and heart disease.

County Supervisor Shirlee Zane, who heads the public health committee for the board of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, said people should avoid being outside.

Residents living in the north end of the county closer to where the blaze continues burning should not be “lured into thinking that those masks are going to protect you 100%, because they don’t,” she said.

The air quality district Friday morning measured the air quality index between 100 and 150, which is in the orange zone in Santa Rosa - meaning people should stay inside if they can.

Zane said people should stay in places that have air conditioning if possible, and those whose power is still shut off should consider spending the day at the movies, the mall or some place that has electricity.

The county’s public health division said vulnerable people should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion and avoid outdoor activities. Poor air quality can trigger wheezing among those with asthma, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or other respiratory conditions.

Other recommendations from county public health officials include:

• Individuals should contact their physician if they have cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms believed to be caused by smoke. Concerned individuals should consult their physician for personalized recommendations.

• If possible, seek shelter in buildings with filtered air or go to areas outside the region less affected by wildfire smoke until smoke levels subside.

• Reduce exposure to smoky air by keeping your windows and doors closed unless it’s extremely hot outside.

• Run your home or car air conditioner on recycle or recirculate. Keep the fresh air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent bringing additional smoke inside.

• Because of the serious air quality conditions, residents should avoid adding additional air pollution by curtailing wood burning, lawn mowing and leaf blowing, driving and barbecuing.

• There is no clear evidence that N-95 respirator masks are beneficial to an individual’s health during conditions when a wildfire has fouled the air. If you have questions about the personal use of N-95 respirator masks please contact your physician.

People with asthma should follow their asthma management plan.

• Be prepared with plans to treat complications from asthma or diabetes when there is smoke. Keep up to two weeks of extra medication on hand.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @pressreno.

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