It's usually nice to have a break from intense sunlight on a hot June day in the San Joaquin Valley. But when the sun is dimmed because of smoke from grass fires, that's not quite a break for many people.
Smoke from wildfires drifted into Lodi on Saturday, cleared somewhat on Sunday and then was back in full force by early Monday morning.
Most of the smoke is likely from a fire burning in Napa and Solano counties near Fairfield, local fire officials said. That fire is one of hundreds burning in California, causing 56 San Joaquin County firefighters to join countless others in battling the blazes.
Weather forecasts from both Accuweather.com and the National Weather Service showed light winds from the west, with no major change predicted for the immediate future. In other words, that smoke could linger in the valley until the fires are further contained.
If the fires continue to burn, or more start, there could still be relief from the smoke later this week, said Ken Clark, a forecaster with AccuWeather. Perhaps as early as Thursday, the wind might shift and blow from the south, where there are fewer nearby fires, he said.
Health officials warned those with health troubles to avoid staying outside for too long, but even those with no medical problems should get indoors and cut down on heavy activities.
Small ash particles from the smoke can harm those with lung disease, asthma and respiratory complications, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District said in a warning issued Monday.
Fire informationFor information on about 30 of the biggest fires burning throughout California, see the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's Web site at fire.ca.gov. Click on "Fire Information" for details about specific fires. The state also posted a map Monday showing a synopsis of the Northern California fires. Another related state-run site can be seen at calfires.com.
Additionally, sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides are released by the fire and then dissolve in the air. The gases can increase lung inflammation, especially for those with such health problems, said Dr. John Connolly, who works in pulmonary critical care at Lodi Memorial Hospital.
"The groups that are at the highest risk are the older folks and the tiny babies, those who have heart disease and lung disease, and those who are actively putting toxins in their body, like smoking," Connolly said.
Primary care doctors have seen more patients complaining about smoke-related health troubles, and the best thing to do is to stay inside and continue taking any medication previously prescribed, he said. Those who must go outside should decrease their activity so they don't inhale as much smoke, he added.
Of course, firefighters can't really avoid the smoke.
Woodbridge Fire Chief Michael Kirkle took a 17-member strike team to Monterey County on June 13, spent a week there and returned home last Tuesday. On Monday afternoon he headed back south to again take over leading the strike team that is battling what is called the Indians Fire, which had burned more than 57,000 acres by Monday morning.
The terrain is rough, so it's hard to get fire vehicles into the area, Kirkle said. Most of the battle is being fought with hand crews and by air.
Meanwhile, another 17-member San Joaquin County strike team headed to the Willits area in Mendocino County, Kirkle said. Thousands of acres had burnt there by Monday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
A third local strike team, consisting of 22 members, headed south to the "Hummingbird Incident" in Santa Clara County, Kirkle said.
Area fire agencies helping on the strike teams include Woodbridge, Thornton, Mokelumne, Liberty and Waterloo/Morada, as well as more from further south in the county.
As fires changed, crews were reassigned elsewhere, and Kirkle said he wouldn't be surprised if county firefighters are sent elsewhere yet again before coming home for good.