The heat is on

California fires are causing poor air quality in the Bay Area


Cal Fire

There are over 5,762 fire incidents in California with the most recent fires on Aug. 18 and Aug. 19. The hot weather and lightning storms worsened the fires.

Alina Kushner, Senior Reporter

California residents woke up this morning to clouds of ash outside their windows due to fires sparked by lightning strikes. 

Smoke from fires as close as Monterey, Fresno and Sacramento have drifted into San Francisco and caused the air quality to worsen. There are a growing 5,762 fire incidents in California, with approximately 204,481 acres burned, according to Cal Fire.

“This morning I woke up to a white milky cloud and the sky was filled with grey particles,” senior Audrey Pinard said. “I was unable to go outside to play golf because the golf course was covered in a thick fog of smoke so it was hard to see the ball.”

The Air Quality Index has already risen as high as 140, which is unhealthy for sensitive groups like the elderly or people with heart and lung problems, according to AirNow

“The fires were kind of shocking and it caught me off guard,” sophomore Samantha Calvin said. “When I went outside this morning it was very hot and I felt like I was struggling to breathe.”

The fire season is estimated to extend 75 days this year due to the rise in temperature and lightning storms in California, according to Cal Fire. With the fires close by, some students have adjusted their routine to avoid inhaling the smokey air.  

“I usually try to take a walk to give myself a break from looking at my computer, but today I can’t do that,” senior Amy Phipps said. “Smelling the smoke can probably make it harder for people to do their schoolwork since they can’t take a deep breath and relax.”

Instead of de-stressing with an outdoor run, some students are keeping busy with indoor activities like video workouts and yoga. 

“I’ve been working out in my room, skateboarding and passing a ball to myself in the hallways of my house,” Pinard said. “I also go into a larger room, such as my living room, to practice my golf swings, but typically I just stick to lifting weights and stretches.”

PG&E is planning power outages in Sacramento and San Jose to prevent more fires from starting. 

“On top of everything, with COVID-19 pandemic going on and other things, having another problem that can harm a person’s health by them going outside makes things even worse,” Pinard said. “It’s sad that I can’t go out on a walk without being worried about this also harming me.”