Air quality reached extremely unhealthy levels in many parts of the Northern San Joaquin Valley on Wednesday as the Camp Fire in Butte County continues to rage.
And that is posing a unique challenge for school districts that have to take the health of students into account when figuring out how to structure a school day around limiting outdoor exposure.
Manteca Unified School District, for example, is continuing to work with San Joaquin County Public Health to monitor conditions and is following the recommendations of the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District which tracks the potentially harmful particulate matter that fires generate.
The district included an air advisory on its website on Monday that details how the district is using the Real-time Air Advisory Network – which provides hour-by-hour updates to air quality conditions – to plan activities and maintain a safe environment for students.
The Manteca RAAN monitor – which is located next to Sierra High School – showed that air quality in that area moved into the worst category, very unhealthy, shortly after 8 a.m. and continued to worsen throughout the day. With a threshold of 75 being the marker for particulate matter 2.5 to move into the very unhealthy category, air near the monitoring station on Wednesday reached measurements of 134, and while the measurements dipped back down below 100 between 5 and 6 p.m., the air continued to worsen throughout the evening.
Sacramento, by contrast, had PM 2.5 measurements that were as high as 190. Several school districts closer to where the fire is currently raging have canceled classes until conditions improve.
At least three California State University campuses – Chico, Sacramento and Stanislaus – have cancelled classes this week because of concerns over air quality, and all are expected to turn students away today as conditions are not expected to improve.
According to a bulletin posted by the San Joaquin County Department of Public Health, children are especially susceptible to complications from smoke because their respiratory systems are still developing. Children with asthma, respiratory infection and heart or lung disease are especially vulnerable to air quality conditions, and officials urge parents of those children to work with health care experts to formulate a plan for prevention and treatment of symptoms if they arise. Parents are also encouraged to monitor the smoke forecast – which can be accessed by visiting http://www.valleyair.org/Programs/RAAN/raan_landing.htm – and limit children’s outside activity as necessary.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.