Dixie fire, Oregon wildfires prompt Spare the Air alert in Berkeley

A Spare the Air alert has been issued in Berkeley until Friday evening due to smoke from wildfires in Northern California, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District announced Thursday.

The burning of wood or any other solid fuel will be banned for the duration of the alert, which is the third in 2021. Last year, the BAAQMD broke records with over 50 consecutive Spare the Air days in the winter due to wildfires and smog.

The Dixie Fire in Lassen County grew to nearly 700,000 acres this week, about 300 miles away from Berkeley, and its smoke (along with other fires in Oregon and California) has enveloped the entire state due to north-north eastern winds, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) and BAAQMD. No fatalities have been reported in the fire to date.

Air quality is currently in the “moderate” range in Berkeley and forecasted to drop into the “unhealthy for sensitive groups” range Friday. But the NWS said it is likely to improve quickly after that.

“In the next few days we expect the smoke to clear out a little bit, winds are shifting to move from west to east,” Sarah McCorkle, NWS meteorologist, said Thursday. “We expect that Saturday will be pretty nice.”

During Spare the Air alerts, residents are asked to stay inside as much as possible, wear tight-fitting N95 or filtering masks when they leave the house in smoky conditions, and reduce activities that further pollute the air like lawn mowing, leaf blowing, driving and barbecuing.