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Smoke from Kincade Fire arrives in San Francisco

Hazy skies and bad air will linger throughout the week

A large plume of smoke rises from a forest. A helicopter can be seen hovering in the smoke.
A helicopter passes a smoke plume as the Kincade Fire burns in Sonoma County.
Photo by AP Photo/Noah Berger

With the Kincade Fire in northern Sonoma County growing to more than 62,000 acres, San Francisco and most of the Bay Area can expect smoke-filled skies Monday, affecting air quality as far south as San Jose.

Smoke from other Bay Area fires have also exacerbated the situation. “A smoke layer can now be seen over mostly the central and eastern parts of the Bay Area with the smoke originating from the fire near the Grizzly Island Wildlife Area northeast of Concord,” notes the National Weather Service’s Oakland Center Weather Service Unit.

The NWS forecast for San Francisco calls for “patchy smoke” all day today, with similar conditions for Oakland, Santa Rosa, and Millbrae.

As a result, a Spare the Air air-quality alert remains on effect across the entire Bay Area.

“Avoid smoke exposure by staying indoors, if possible. Follow evacuation orders [and] instructions from local health officials to protect your health,” says the official Twitter feed for Spare the Air.

The EPA’s AIRNow tool predicts an Air Quality Index average of 102 throughout San Francisco and the South Bay. This number is “unhealthy for sensitive groups” and affects people with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children, all of whom should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.

The air quality isn’t nearly as bad as it was last year following the Camp Fire, which resulted in some of the worst air in the city’s recorded history.

The agency notes that “fine particles are the principal pollutant of concern from wildfire smoke for short-term exposures”—short-term in this case meaning as much as a few weeks or as little as a few hours, depending on the patient and the proximity to the fire.

When fine particles enter the body, they can lodge in the lungs and heart irritating the respiratory system and making it more difficult for patients to expel harmful materials from airways.

In theory, even healthy people can suffer ill effects from just light exposure to smoke containing such elements, although it’s less likely than for those whose systems are already particularly vulnerable thanks to their age or preexisting health conditions.

The Center For Disease Control says that those concerned about exposure to poor air quality should stay indoors with windows and doors shut; air conditioning on; and avoid using appliances like vacuum cleaners, fireplaces, or gas stoves.