A thick haze blanketing the central San Joaquin Valley is expected to continue through the weekend, as smoke from massive West Coast fires drifts over the region.

The Creek Fire in the mountains east of Fresno had burned 196,667 acres as of Saturday, according to Cal Fire, sending up clouds of smoke, ash and dust — but that was not the only reason for the grayish-yellow sky.

The layer of haze over the valley is a result of several fires up and down the coast, as wind pushes smoke into a large plume that swirls over the West Coast.

Smoke ultimately drifts south to the central San Joaquin Valley from multiple fires, including the SCU Lighting, CZU August Lightning, LNU Lighting, SQF, August and the North complex fires, according to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

Until fires are extinguished, air quality alerts are active across the Valley, warning residents to stay inside and avoid outdoor activity to reduce harmful effects of breathing pollution.

Air quality was in the very unhealthy range for particulate matter and ozone midday Saturday in Merced, Madera and Fresno counties, and unhealthy for children and seniors in Kings and Tulare counties.

A dense smoke advisory is in effect until Sunday night in eastern Sierra counties into Nevada, creating unhealthy air quality and reduced visibility, according to the National Weather Service.

Is the air quality safe where you live?

Some towns experience worse air quality than others depending on wind patterns and additional sources of particulate matter.

To view the air quality in your region or town based on data from government monitors, visit gispub.epa.gov/airnow.

To see air quality and smoke patterns specifically from wildfire smoke, visit fire.airnow.gov.

To see real-time air quality measurements at a neighborhood level, visit purpleair.com/map.

How to protect yourself and family from bad air quality

Exposure to wildfire smoke can cause serious health problems, particularly for children, seniors and adults with existing heart or lung problems. It can cause asthma, bronchitis and can aggravate lung disease, according to the California Air Resources Control Board.

Particulate matter is tiny particles small enough to travel past your upper respiratory system into your lungs and cardiovascular system. Pollution considered PM 2.5 can cause permanent damage in developing lungs, or can trigger heart or respiratory incidents.

Here’s what public health officials recommend as protection:

  • If faced with heavy smoke and ash from a nearby fire, consider leaving the area.
  • Stay indoors if the sky looks hazy from wildfire and avoid strenuous activity outside. That means don’t let the kids play outside and don’t go running.
  • Close doors and windows. Consider purchasing a portable air cleaner or efficient HVAC system. Or, consider the cheaper DIY alternative with a homemade filtered fan.
  • If you must go outside, wear an N95 respirator mask.

Learn more at bit.ly/2ZwBvQt.

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