Fresno-area officials are asking San Joaquin Valley residents to tamp their output of daily pollution to help improve air quality.
The particulate matter in the air climbed Friday and reached the red level — the fourth-highest ranking out of five — overnight in parts of the Valley, according to real-time readings from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.
Community-based sensors from Purple Air showed air pollution Saturday that the company said could have effects on people exposed for an extended time, especially those who have other respiratory conditions. Those readings tended to be worse the farther south the sensors were in Fresno.
Residents can help improve air quality by refraining from burning and reducing their trips in gas-powered cars, according to Samir Sheikh, the district executive director and air pollution control officer.
“We’re now moving from what has been another bad wildfire season where we all unfortunately had to experience very concentrated wildfire smoke for extended durations,” he said. “We are entering into the winter season that is historically the high … particulate matter season for the San Joaquin Valley.”
Sheikh said wood burning should be left to only those who have no other source of heat during the coldest months.
Fresno and the Valley saw some wet weather last week and then a significant storm Monday, which were helpful for cleaning the air and moving pollution out of the area, according to meteorologist Jim Blagnall with the National Weather Service in Hanford.
Since then a high pressure system has left the air stagnant, which creates conditions that put a sort of lid on the Valley and traps bad air, he said. Day-to-day pollution, dust and other matter continues to be pushed into the air.
The kind of weather that could help will likely miss Fresno to the north on Monday, but another low pressure system seems to be on the way about Thursday or Friday, he said.
Real-time air quality by ZIP code is also available at myRAAN.com.
Valley residents can participate in the Burn Cleaner incentive program and receive as much as $3,000 to upgrade older, higher-polluting wood stoves and open-hearth fireplaces to natural gas devices. To participate in that program visit valleyair.org/burncleaner.