Smoke from wildfires across Northern California have impacted athletics in the Stanislaus District.
Modesto City Schools canceled all outdoor activities on Wednesday after warnings were issued for Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties by the National Weather Service.
“We’re at Mother Nature’s mercy,” Modesto City Schools athletic director Donnie Wallace said. “All outdoor practices and activities have been canceled due to the air quality.”
Further south, school districts in Turlock and Merced also canceled outdoor events, and administrators at Pitman and Turlock high schools began to make alternative plans for Thursday’s competitions, particularly freshman football.
“If we have the same air quality as today, we’re going to try to move the game to Friday,” Pitman athletic director Dave Walls said. “Worst-case scenario we’ll end up playing a triple-header at Buhach Colony on Friday. We just have to wait and see.”
Smoke from wildfires in Napa, Sonoma and Solano counties drifted into the Central Valley on Wednesday morning, creating dangerous breathing conditions and covering communities in a thick haze.
The largest of the fires have swallowed huge swaths of land in the wine country.
The Tubbs Fire in Napa County has burned 28,000 acres as of Wednesday, according to Cal Fire. The Atlas Fire has spanned two counties, Napa and Solano, and burned 42,349 acres with little containment.
An air quality alert for Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties is in effect until Saturday, according to the National Weather Service, but there is no telling what kind of impact the smoke will have on Friday’s football lineup.
“It shouldn’t have an impact, unless the winds keep coming and the fires get worse,” Wallace said. “Who knows what tomorrow will bring? I hope it won’t, but first off, we hope that everyone (in those affected areas) is safe and taken care of.”
On Wednesday, football adjusted to the adverse conditions. Most programs went indoors for “chalk talk” sessions, weights and walk-throughs, while a few, like Central Catholic and Escalon, practiced cautiously outdoors.
This isn’t the first time the Stanislaus District calendar has been interrupted by Mother Nature.
In September, a heat wave forced the cancellation of two football games: Central Catholic at Marin Catholic and Pacific Grove at Orestimba. Practices were also condensed or moved to protect the players’ and coaches’ safety.
“You adapt and overcome,” Modesto football coach Brett Wagner said. “As a coach, you always have a Plan B in your pocket. We had issues with the heat and we had to adapt. You do the best you can. I’ve got some great coaches around me, so we don’t lose much when stuff like this happens.”
Wallace, a former football coach at Modesto and Modesto Junior College, doesn’t believe teams lose much if one practice is altered.
“There are ways to work around it. You won’t lose much conditioning in one day,” he said. “Now a couple of days, yeah. If tomorrow brings another red flag/level 5, I don’t know what we’ll consider doing.”
Canepa said he’ll exercise caution this week, but he would rather stay on schedule.
“Is it the end of the world? Probably not,” Canepa said. “But my whole thing is to be consistent. ‘Here are our times.’ We don’t miss practice and we tell our parents that. We’re not canceling practice.
“If we can’t go outside, we’ll go into the weight room and do films. We’re still on the same schedule. I’ve never canceled a practice in 32 years for anything, so I don’t plan on it today.”