Sudden decline in air quality from wildfires alters outdoor activity protocol

The+sun+shines+through+wildfire+smoke+over+Davis+Field+today.+Air+quality+index+%28AQI%29+levels+passed+150+on+all+four+campuses+today%2C+according+to+the+second+of+two+emails+sent+at+12%3A44+p.m.+by+Director+of+Health+Services+Debra+Nott%2C+cancelling+or+moving+all+after+school+activities+and+sports+practices+inside.+

Emily Tan

The sun shines through wildfire smoke over Davis Field today. Air quality index (AQI) levels passed 150 on all four campuses today, according to the second of two emails sent at 12:44 p.m. by Director of Health Services Debra Nott, cancelling or moving all after school activities and sports practices inside.

by Alysa Suleiman and Nicole Tian

This is a developing story. Check Harker Aquila for future updates.

Air quality index (AQI) levels passed 150 on all four campuses today, canceling or moving all after school activities and sports practices inside, according to the second of two emails sent at 12:44 p.m. by Director of Health Services Debra Nott. AQI values above 150 until 200 are “unhealthy” and move into the red category, triggering health effects for sensitive groups, such as individuals with lung disease, seniors, children and teenagers. 

Practice for girls’ water polo and tennis were also canceled today, while boys’ water polo worked on dry land exercises instead, and cross country moved from the Blackford campus track to the Zhang Gymnasium Athletics Center. Girls’ golf did not cancel their 4 p.m. match today against Notre Dame High School.

“Honestly, [the air quality] will make it very hard for us to train,” cross country head coach Mia Purnell said. “I’ll do my best to create sports-specific exercises and exercise sessions that actually allow the athletes to continue to improve but also [keep] their safety in mind.”

The smoke from the Caldor Fire, located near the South Lake Tahoe Basin, moved south to the Bay Area, causing the issuing of a Spare the Air alert in effect today and tomorrow across most of the bay. The alert bans wood burning to reduce fine particulate pollution, preventing the use of fireplaces, outdoor fire pits and wood stoves. So far, the wildfire has burned through 143,951 acres and is 12 percent contained. Last year, record-breaking heat began on Aug. 14, fueling devastating fires that caused California Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency on Aug. 18. 

According to Nott’s email, N95 masks are currently available at the nurse’s office. All faculty are required to wear an N95 if engaging in any outdoor activities. Harker required that all doors and windows be closed. Students could only wait outside at the loading zones for at most five minutes.

Purnell plans to try renting indoor space at Blackford but indicates that future meets will need to be potentially rescheduled or even canceled due to the air quality.

Additional reporting by Erica Cai.