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Sooty air will continue to choke valley, officials say

The wind is expected to shift in the next 12 to 24 hours, but air quality officials said today it won’t clear the wildland fire smoke choking the Northern San Joaquin Valley.

Officials with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District said the air, filled with soot and ash, is unhealthy for the general public in Stanislaus and Merced counties and not good for sensitive groups in San Joaquin County. The poor conditions are expected to persist for the next few days.

An air quality reading this morning in Turlock was three times above the normal amount for small particles. Officials said the air conditions can damage lungs, trigger asthma attacks and exacerbate cardiovascular disease.

It’s best for children, the elderly and people with heart and lung diseases to stay indoors, said Anthony Presto, an air district spokesman in Modesto. The air district also advised school districts not to hold sports activities outdoors.

The smoke filling the sky comes from a wildfire in Plumas County, 170 miles north of Modesto. The unusual winds from the north that have driven the smoke into the San Joaquin Valley air basin are expected to change to a west-to-east direction.

That will push emissions from the Plumas County fire into Nevada. But with the change in wind pattern, the valley will receive smoke from the “Lick” fire in Henry Coe Park in Santa Clara and western Stanislaus County, said Shawn Ferreria, a project planner with the air district

As of this morning, the Lick fire had consumed 18,000 acres.

Smokes from the Plumas fire spreads

Real-time view from the National Weather Service