Weather forecast, breathing struggles, and self-care: Fire season during a pandemic

Thick smoke has settled in the Kaweah canyon for over a week, putting air quality in the hazardous range.

Weather outlook and air quality report

Ongoing wildfires from an unprecedented  and early fire season happening across California are continuing to cause extreme smoke impacts to the San Joaquin Valley and adjacent Sierra foothills and mountain regions. The region is experiencing some of the worst air pollution in the world due to thick smoke caused by record-shattering climate fires that have scorched 5 million acres and, at last report, left 35 people dead.

It is hoped that cooler temperatures and calmer winds will assist firefighters in gaining the upper hand on controlling the blazes burning throughout the state. The SQF Complex Fire, located in Tulare County; the Creek Fire, located in Fresno/Madera counties; and multiple large and record-breaking wildfires in Northern California are producing smoke that is infiltrating into the San Joaquin Valley.

In the local area through the weekend of September 19-20, PM2.5 concentrations are anticipated to remain elevated, resulting in ongoing unhealthy air quality. Residents are advised to stay indoors to reduce exposure to particulate matter emissions. The smoke is so thick that it has blocked out the sun, causing temperatures to be 5 to 10 degrees lower than forecast during the past week.

PM (particulate matter) pollution can trigger asthma attacks, aggravate chronic bronchitis, and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Individuals with heart or lung disease should follow their doctors’ advice for dealing with episodes of PM exposure. Anyone experiencing poor air quality due to wildfire smoke should move indoors to a filtered, air-conditioned environment with windows closed. (See below for additional health tips.)

The good news: For the remainder of September, temperatures will range from the mid 80s to low 90s in Three Rivers (cooler at higher elevations); no triple digits or prolonged heatwaves are in the long-range forecast. 

The bad news: No rain is in the forecast for the next 15 days for Three Rivers; there is a slight chance that with the weather change some moisture might fall in the highest elevations (Friday, Sept. 18). That would be a welcome bit of weather as long as it’s not accompanied by lightning strikes.

And here’s a subhead that sums up 2020:

How to stay safe from wildfire smoke during the coronavirus pandemic

Stay hydrated, eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, take Vitamin C (depleted by smoke) and Vitamin D (due to lack of sunlight). It’s all about keeping the immune system strong; Vitamins B and E will assist too.

Stay indoors with doors and windows closed, avoid strenuous exercise, and get plenty of sleep to keep the immune system boosted.

Don’t vacuum, burn candles, smoke, or anything else that further pollutes the air entering the lungs. Use an air purifier with a HEPA filter (high-efficiency particulate air) if possible or available.

The common cloth and paper masks individuals are wearing due to COVID-19 concerns may not offer protection from wildfire smoke. A wet dishcloth or tea towel over your nose and mouth is more beneficial.

When driving, keep car windows closed and air conditioner on recirculate (with vent closed to the outside).

Increase humidity in the home or at least in your sinuses. Try this: Place boiling water in a bowl, put a towel over your head, and breathe in deeply. This will help clear out your sinuses. Add eucalyptus or thyme essential oil if available.

Increase intake of anti-inflammatory foods: garlic, turmeric, ginger, green leafy vegetables, fatty fish, nuts, beets, pineapples. You get the point… as always, healthy, whole foods are best.

At highest risk are the elderly, people with chronic respiratory conditions or heart conditions, pregnant women, and young children. But wildfire smoke — which contains a mix of gases and tiny particles that come from the burning trees, plant material and other things (such as burnt structures, vehicles, and more) that are fueling the fire — is detrimental to everyone. The smoke increases susceptibility to lung infections, including the virus that causes COVID-19. 

Wildfire smoke in the air can sting your eyes and irritate your throat and lungs, resulting in coughing, wheezing, or even an asthma attack or bronchitis. It can cause unexpected symptoms such as chest pain, a rapid heartbeat, headaches, a runny nose, and fatigue.

If you have severe symptoms, like difficulty breathing or chest pain, immediately call 911 or the nearest emergency facility.

The above information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.




2 thoughts on “Weather forecast, breathing struggles, and self-care: Fire season during a pandemic

  • September 17, 2020 at 12:34 pm

    Thank you for all the information. There are a lot of stories out there misinforming people. As a new resident to Three Rivers, my fiance and I want to do anything we can to help our neighbors. Our animals are safely moved, we have packed what we can’t replace and are as ready as anyone can be in this situation.

  • September 17, 2020 at 2:41 pm

    Thank you Sarah!


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