Threat from Camp Fire smoke fluctuating, but precautions still advised


Smoke from the Camp Fire continues to affect our air. Especially in Merced County, where countless schools made changes Friday. While the air quality seriousness changes by the hour, county leaders agree, stay indoors to avoid the bad air. 

The most notable schedule change came from UC Merced, the college cancelled all of its classes. School districts in the county modified their schedules to keep students indoors as much as possible. Many also cancelled outdoor sporting events on the calendar. 

While classes were cancelled at UC Merced, many students still were seen walking the campus. Some students had masks on, but the majority didn’t.

One of those with a mask was freshman Alex Woersching. He wasn’t concerned at first. 

“I started noticing the effects that it was taking on me. For example, I was starting to get a headache, starting to feel drowsy, even though I got a full eight hours [of sleep],” he said. “I’m just concerned about my own physical health, as well as everybody else’s.”

It was easy to see the smoke that’s made its way from Butte County from campus. Winds are changing the smoke’s threat by the hour, according to the Merced County Department of Public Health, often switching from very unhealthy to unhealthy. 

It’s why the Merced County Office of Education, with guidance from the county health department, advised its districts to keep students indoors — even for lunch and recess.

Classes weren’t cancelled at all. 

“We felt it was important to keep our schools open to have children in buildings that were getting filtered air,” said superintendent Steve Tietjen.

If you do spend time outside, those with heart and breathing conditions will notice problems first. However, after some time, perfectly healthy individuals will, too.

Either way, condition or not, the hospital could be in the near future.

“This particulate matter is an irritant for everybody. It just is worse for people that are sensitive,” said Dr. David Canton with the county health department. “This means that you’re gonna cause inflamation, irritation in your lungs, which could build up fluid. Potentially set an environment to get a lung infection and then a hospitalization from that.”

Canton adds masks aren’t needed in current conditions. But if you do wear one, make sure it’s fitted to your face. 

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