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Fires increasing pollution, air district warns

Two large wildfires are increasing pollution in the San Joaquin Valley, prompting officials to issue a health cautionary statement.

The fires – the Zaca fire in Santa Barbara County and the Tar Canyon fire in Fresno County – are sending dirty air into Fresno, Madera, Merced, Kings, Tulare and the valley portion of Kern counties. The problem could extend to Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties, depending on wind patterns, San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution District forecasters said.

Because officials don’t know how long it will take to put out the fires, the cautionary statement is in effect indefinitely.

“If you smell smoke, you are likely breathing it,” district forecaster Shawn Ferreria said

Air-monitoring stations in Bakersfield have recorded elevated soot levels this morning, and the district has received reports of ash falling in Kern County.

Exposure to particle pollution can cause serious health problems, aggravate lung disease, cause asthma attacks and acute bronchitis, and increase risk of respiratory infections.

People in the eight counties are advised to use caution. People with heart or lung diseases should follow their doctors’ advice for dealing with episodes of unhealthy air quality. Additionally, older adults and children should avoid prolonged exposure, strenuous activities or heavy exertion, as conditions dictate.

The air-quality forecast for today is in the good to moderate range for most of the valleys. But localized air quality could fluctuate depending on smoke, forecasters said.

The district covers San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and the valley portion of Kern. For more information, visit http://www.valleyair.org/ or call the Modesto district office at 557-6400.

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