The Terror of Smoke in Sacramento

By Michel Baez Vargas and JonPaul Yee, Clarion Staff writers

Smoke has been an on and off occurrence in the Sacramento area, leading to some days being extremely cloudy from the smoke, and other days having a clear healthy environment. Even so, smoke has affected local high schools, including John F. Kennedy, impacting health and canceling events. 

Starting during the beginning of summer, information from a San Francisco Chronicle article showed that flames began to burst from the Golden state in the Shasta Cascades and Sierra Nevada. Due to the ongoing drought in California, low rainfall, and reservoir levels, fires can easily occur here in California. 

These wildfires can force people living nearby to evacuate. Those  further away encounter smoke that the winds have brought to other parts of California. 

Naya Chandra, a Kennedy junior, knows people who were affected by the actual fires. 

“My mother’s coworker has parents who lived in Paradise during [the Camp Fire in 2018], and he started crying because he couldn’t get a hold of his parents since they’re old, I think they made it out alive and live with him now.”

The smoke from wildfires has caused dangerous and unhealthy air quality in many locations such as Sacramento Valley, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. According to Accuweather, the California forecaster, the wind patterns show the movement of the smoke being pushed from the Northern side of California, where they began, heading towards the Southern part of California.

“Sacramento (Smoke)” by smaedli, licensed under CC BY 2.0

This smoke is harmful to those who suffer from respiratory issues such as asthma, lung cancer, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and many other sicknesses that obscure the breathing airways. Having to live in an environment with horrible air quality is difficult, but having to live in that environment is even more challenging for those who suffer from respiratory issues.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Wildfire smoke can cause harmful damage to the air quality due to the complex mixture of gases, and burnt organic materials. The biggest threat is from fine particles. These microscopic particles can get into your eyes and respiratory system – whether you are inside or outside…” 

“Asthma Inhaler” by NIAID, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Asthma, a fairly common respiratory issue, has been diagnosed in 13.6 percent of the adults in Sacramento Valley. Asthma can cause a great deal of problems when the air is not healthy since the microscopic particles affect the respiratory system. It can become fatal if not    attended with immediate attention.

The situation resonates with many Kennedy students. 

One Kennedy student said it reminded her of her brother, “because he has asthma and with the bad air quality it’s harder to breathe, especially since he had to do PE.” 

Kennedy Junior Mimi Hall said “ it created difficult breathing such as asthma attacks,and it increased irritants, forcing me to stay inside.” Other students think back to the grey smoke and red sky from the wildfire.

An Instagram poll taken of 50 Sacramento-area students asked if students were affected or knew anyone affected by the wildfire smoke. 40 percent of the 50 students claimed to be affected, while the other 60 percent claimed they were not. During the time, the Covid-19 Pandemic forced many citizens to quarantine. 

Annebal Vu, a junior at Hiram Johnson, recalled when the smoke had affected her mother’s work space, “my mom’s patients had to be evacuated from their homes.” 

It’s clear to see how many lives were affected by the wildfires and smoke, especially when it comes to many people’s daily lives. The fear local Sacramento residents have to go through without knowing if the smoke will affect their loved ones’ health during the day is ultimately a fear many go through. 

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