About a decade and a half ago when I lived in Colorado, I continued my Boulder County lunch rides in spite of smoke blowing towards Kansas from several Front Range wildfires. I think I did permanent damage to my lungs because of that stupidity, so I’m very reluctant to exert myself now with smoke wafting into the Bay Area from the Soberanes Fire in Monterey County.
This NASA image of the fire was captured on Sunday, July 24, 2016. Since then, the fire has doubled in size, and wind at the 850 mb level (about 5000 feet above sea level) have shifted from the south, blowing haze into the Salinas and Santa Clara Valleys.
I’m participating in Strava’s July Climbing Challenge, and I’m currently 1500 meters short of my 8000 meter goal. I planned to complete those final climbs yesterday and today during my morning commute, but a couple of very bad years of asthma have me favoring my lungs over a virtual badge in an online profile. The smoke isn’t too bad at ground level here, but it’s still enough that I’d prefer to wait until conditions clear.
The fire is also affecting air quality along the coast and inland for Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Cruz Counties. For most of us, the only effect is pretty sunsets and brown clouds above us during the day. Monterey Bay Air Resources District, however, reports moderate levels of PM2.5 for Hollister, Salinas, King City, and the Monterey Peninsula, and unhealthy levels of PM2.5 in Carmel Valley. PM2.5 stands for 2.5 micrometer particulate matter and is a measure of fine soot suspended in the air. Exposure to this kind of soot is linked to decreased lung function, and higher rates of lung cancer and other lung diseases. Some fine particulate matter — especially the toxic junk generated by automotive traffic — is small enough to travel up the nerve conduits from your nasal passages directly to your brain, where it kills brain cells and is linked to lower intelligence for children and dementia in adults.
As I sit in my air-conditioned cubicle bloviating about recreational activity avoidance because of a little haze, Calfire reports 2300 people are fighting the 19,000+ acre Soberanes fire in very difficult terrain in the hills above the Big Sur coast in Monterey County. One fire engine was destroyed when a boulder crashed down a hillside. California State Parks closed several day use area, campgrounds, and trails in Big Sur. Although Highway 1 remains open, Calfire and Caltrans District 5 says the highway is subject to delays as firefighters move equipment. Among the firefighters is a buddy of mine from the city of Santa Cruz Fire Department.
Calfire says they don’t anticipate having the Soberanes Fire under control until August 5, so you might want to steer clear of this area until then.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District have also declared the eighth summer “Spare the Air” day of 2016 due to high ozone levels, with PM2.5 also at “moderately” high levels. Per usual, the air quality management district asks you to “bike to work or around town” to help prevent summertime smog.