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Folsom air, not so fair

Officials warn of unhealthy conditions
By: Bill Sullivan, Associate Publisher
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While the tragic Camp Fire in the community of Paradise is some 80 miles from Folsom, its devastation and danger is having an impact on our area. Heavy smoke has posed a number of event cancellations and on-going health risks to those in the Sacramento region.

The City of Folsom began to see the drop in air quality on Friday afternoon as the once clear blue skies began to appear overcast due to smoke, not clouds. By Saturday, the conditions had worsened, forcing the cancellation of various outdoor activities, including the 18th annual Wayne Spence Veterans Day Parade that was slated to march through town on Sunday morning.

The cancellation marked the first time in nearly two decades that city officials were forced to cancel this popular community event. With air quality readings in the area reaching the danger level, they were left with no choice in an effort to protect the near 2,000 individuals who were set to participate.

Folsom wasn’t alone in cancelling its Veterans Day festivities, as events were cancelled throughout the valley and as far south as Elk Grove. Sacramento State University cancelled classes due the dangerous air levels on Tuesday as well as UC Davis.

Locally, the Folsom Cordova Unified School District moved many of its outdoor activities to indoor venues, including recess breaks, sports activities and physical education classes, according to Daniel Thigpen, director of Communication and Community Engagement for FCUSD. The district continues to keep parents notified of the measures in place and will be monitoring the air quality in the days to come to determine and ensure the safety of those participating in local athletics, including upcoming football playoffs which were being reviewed as of press time.

While the conditions in the City of Folsom have slightly improved since Sunday, local air quality has continued to linger at the unhealthy level and is expected to continue doing so in the coming days.  Residents are urged to remain indoors as much as possible, and take precautions if they need to be outside.

“The best place to be when the air quality is bad is indoors,” said Folsom Fire Chief Felipe Rodriguez.

Rodriguez also explained that an N95 respirator mask is recommended only for those that do not have access to filtered or re-circulated air. However, extended use of such a mask can pose additional risks as well.

According to the Sacramento County Public Health Officer, prolonged use of N95 respirator mask can exacerbate symptoms in those with respiratory problems. N95 respirator mask use by those with heart and respiratory diseases can be dangerous, and should only be done under a doctor’s supervision.

While some areas throughout Sacramento County are distributing masks to the public, local retailers in and around Folsom are seeing increased demand for masks as well. According to Eric Freedman, owner of Ace Hardware on Greenback Lane in Folsom, the need has been substantial.

“We've had to make trips to our distribution center twice in between our normal deliveries, and now Ace corporate is transferring stock from other distribution centers outside California and working to expedite orders from 3M.  We're doing our best to stay in stock on them.”

It’s not just humans that are at risk, pets can be in danger if left outside for extended periods of time. It’s recommended if you have outdoor pets, to move them inside the home where they can breathe air filtered by the HVAC system.

Rodriguez added that the local air quality can vary throughout the day, especially when there is a fire in the local area or when winds push smoke toward Folsom. If you see or smell smoke from a distant fire, take the following actions:

  • Minimize outdoor activities, even if you’re healthy
  • Children, the elderly, and people with respiratory or heart conditions should be particularly careful to avoid exposure
  • Stay indoors with doors and windows closed as much as possible
  • Asthmatics should follow their asthma management plan
  • Contact your doctor if you have symptoms of cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms you believe to be caused by smoke
  • Those with heart disease should especially limit their smoke exposure
  • For those without filtered or recirculated indoor air, it is recommended that they seek indoor respite from smoke, such as shopping malls, community centers, public libraries, or coffee shops (Source: Sac County Public Health).

Information regarding the current air quality could be found in the Sacramento Region Spare the Air website at sparetheair.com/aqi.cfm.

Residents are also urged to register their phones with Sacramento Alert Everbridge and Nixle to receive emergency alerts. Cell phones are not automatically registered. Sacramento Alert Everbridge can be found in the app store or at member.everbridge.net/index/453003085611271#/signup.