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Terrible SF air starts to clear

Take a deep breath

Coit Tower against a smoke-filled SF skyline.
Coit Tower against a smoke-filled SF skyline.
Photo by DTM Media/Shutterstock

After nearly two weeks of smoky skies in San Francisco, Wednesday offers the potential for relief—at last.

Early Wednesday morning the Environmental Protection Agency’s [EPA] AIRNow site reports an Air Quality Index [AQI] score of 82 in San Francisco, classified as “moderate.”

While that’s worse than the average for SF, it’s the best outlook the city has seen since the beginning of the Butte County Camp Fire, which has darkened Bay Area skies since it began November 8.

On the “moderate” part of the AQI spectrum, EPA standards recommend that “unusually sensitive people should consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion” but otherwise present no particular need for concern.

“Unhealthy” air conditions still persist in parts of the East Bay, according to Wednesday morning data.

However, the day’s forecast predicts that toxicity will level out considerably across the region as the day goes on, particularly as the incoming rainfall commences.

Although this is cheerful news, the Camp Fire is still burning in Butte County and may continue to contribute to regional air pollution in the future, so residents should keep those N95 masks handy and leave an eye on the skies in the days ahead.

Members of the Democratic Socialists of America have been handing out freebie masks on the steps of City Hall and at other locations this week, criticizing SF’s government institutions for not doing more to supply the general public during the crisis.

On Tuesday, Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who is also SF’s representative to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, released a statement vowing reforms in case of similar bad air outbreaks in the future, including making sure that the city “has ready on hand a sufficient supply of N95 respirator masks [...] readily available at every library and school in the city.”