Smoke from California wildfires cause Nevada to see worst air quality on record

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Smoke from wildfires in neighboring California blankets neighborhood streets in suburban Sparks, Nev., just east of Reno, Monday, Aug. 23, 2021. The Washoe County School District closed all schools including those in Reno, Sparks and parts of Lake Tahoe on Monday due to the hazardous air quality. The county health district urged the general public to “stay inside as much as possible” due to conditions expected to continue through Wednesday. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner)

As wildfires continue to rage across the state of California, the effects of these fires are being felt by neighboring states. Several Nevada counties have recorded their worst Air Quality Index (AQI) levels ever on record this week.   

The Washoe County Health District – Air Quality Management Division (AQMD), home to Reno, issued a Stage 3 Emergency Episode due to smoke from area wildfires. This was issued because the Particulate Matter of diameter 2.5 micrometers (PM 2.5) AQI was over 200 for a 24-hour period. All residents were prompted to stay indoors as much as possible. This is the first time AQMD has ever had to issue a Stage 3 Emergency Episode. 

The AQMD of Nevada’s Washoe County reported an AQI of 289 on Tuesday, falling into the category of “Very Unhealthy” set by the U.S. EPA. At this level it is considered a health alert, because the risk of health effects is increased for everyone.  

PM 2.5 are fine, inhalable particles, about 30 times smaller than the diameter of a single strand of hair, but they pose a great risk to health. Exposure to these fine particles can cause short-term health effects such as eye, nose, throat, and lung irritation, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and shortness of breath. Exposure to these particles can also affect lung function and worsen many medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease.  

California’s Dixie and Caldor wildfires are some of the largest fires that continue to blaze across the state. The Caldor fire has gone on since August 14th and has burned 122,980 acres. According to data from the EPA, the short-term trend indicates that conditions will likely stay between the “Very Unhealthy” and “Hazardous” range for portions of Nevada.  

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