Smoke fades but still could be a health risk

Hazardous wildfire smoke that caused some concern in the Modesto area last week moved south Saturday to Kern and Tulare counties, but air district officials warned that the Plumas County fire burning to the north could still pose a health threat to the region.

Smoke coming from the Lick fire burning in Santa Clara and western Stanislaus counties kept air quality in the Modesto area out of the "good" range Saturday, and the same "moderate" conditions were expected today, according to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. A "moderate" rating is one step away from an "unhealthy for sensitive groups" rating.

Firefighters had 50 percent of the Lick fire contained Saturday night and were expected to have full containment today, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Air district officials said pollution levels could rise to- day if predicted wind patterns change and smoke from the Plumas fire blows into the San Joaquin Valley. The National Weather Service predicted winds of 6 to 11 mph out of the north and northwest.

Firefighters had 16 percent of the Plumas fire contained as of Saturday night, fire officials said. Steep, rocky terrain and erratic high winds were contributing to the extreme behavior and growth potential for the wildfire.

For air quality forecasts by county, visit www.valleyair.org or call 800-766-4463.