Staying healthy in the smoke


75,781 acres burned to the ground in Lake, Napa and Sonoma counties due to the third worst wildfire in California history. Although the fire is hundreds of miles away, Chico can still be affected health-wise by the smoke and ash in the air.

The Butte fire hits a little closer to the Chico area. As of Sept. 20, the fire was 74 percent contained, but this can cause health complications for students and residents of Butte County.

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The sun hides behind the smokey sky in Sacramento. Photo credit: Allisun Coote


“It has been a very intense fire season,” said Jason Mandly, Associate Air Quality Planner at Butte County Air Quality Management District. “It is exasperated by the drought.”

Jason Mandly, Associate Air Quality Planner at Butte County Air Quality Management District, discusses the health risks involved with the smoke residue from the wildfires. Photo credit: Sarah Strausser

The smoke encountered from the Valley and Butte fires was from hundreds of miles away, from both Butte and Oroville. However, the particles can be minuscule and still make a big impact, Mandly said.

There have been days this fire season where Butte County air has been in the unhealthy range, Mandly said. When the air is in this range, people of all ages may begin to experience adverse health effects including irritation of eyes and throat and shortness of breath. People with asthma or other breathing problems may begin to experience severe complications and should not be outside.

Darren Brundage, junior exercise physiology major, was walking home from school when he saw smoke covering the train tracks. He said he didn’t notice much in his lungs, but stayed inside for the rest of the day.

Chico State students should go indoors during high smoke days, as the air quality is poor. Mandly says that rain and storms can blow smoke past Butte County, but with the fires not 100 percent contained, it is important for people to be aware and protect themselves from harmful particles that smoke can bring into the air.

Sarah Strausser can be reached at [email protected] or @strausser_sarah on Twitter.