Smoke from the big fires burning in Northern California, and especially the plume emitted from a huge blaze burning along the Klamath River east of Yreka, has been creating serious air quality problems for communities in that region for weeks. Now air quality regulators are warning the smoke could have an impact in the Bay Area, too.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District said Tuesday that smoke from the fires, including the 72,000-acre Happy Camp Complex blaze, could affect residents in Sonoma and Napa counties. At midday Wednesday, though, the district reported that air quality throughout the Bay Area was good.
Residents of far Northern California, and especially those in Siskiyou, Trinity and Shasta counties, have been contending with poor air quality since the end of July. That's when the first of a series of lightning-sparked fires began spreading through heavily forested mountains in the region. Those fires have burned more than 150,000 acres so far.
As the biggest of those blazes, the Happy Camp Complex, continues to grow, air quality in one nearby community, the Klamath River hamlet of Seiad Valley, is rated as "very unhealthy" under the EPA's Air Quality Index. That rating means air so bad that everyone will experience some serious ill effects. Air in the town of Happy Camp, also on the Klamath, is slightly better, rated as "unhealthy." The persistent smoke has prompted the Karuk tribe to turn its senior nutrition facility in Happy Camp into a "clean air respite center."
Federal fire managers said Wednesday that the Happy Camp Complex blaze is expected to continue to spread Wednesday due to extremely low humidity and increasing winds. The National Weather Service has posted a red-flag warning for most of the Northern California mountains through tonight.