In easier times, we look at the weather forecasts before going out. With the climate crisis making itself more apparent, now now also check smoke forecasts! Our environmental agencies have modeling just for this, and it is smartphone-friendly.
I regularly use airnow.gov or fire.airnow.gov to know if I need to wear a particulate filtering mask. These services are provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Park Service (NPS), NASA, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and host of local agencies.
Fire and Smoke Map
In 2021, several features have been added to the information available when you click or tap a monitor or sensor icon. We’ve added a dashboard that gives you quick access to key information you can use to help plan your activities:
In recent days, the smoke coverage in satellite photos has been alarming, and sunlight has had a strangely yellow tinge to it. That’s is caused by high level smoke, but we also need to know if the smoke is close to the ground, because then we have to take precautions for our breathing and overall health. Waiting to smell it isn’t enough – it may come and go, and catch us unprepared.
The National Weather Service delivers on this surface smoke forecasting need!
As popularly requested, here is the latest hi-resolution forecast for NEAR SURFACE smoke through the next 44 hours. Another loop for suspended smoke at roughly ridge level will follow shortly. NEAR SURFACE smoke is more important to focus on. pic.twitter.com/6maez58bLO
We had a dark day on September 9th, and I’m still seeing amazing photos of it. My own neighborhood was covered in fog, so I couldn’t see far in the orange twilight that dominated the day, caused by smoke high in our atmosphere.
Others beyond the fog line did a lot with the view! I’ll share some of their great work, linked back to the source.
More than 12,400 firefighters are continuing to battle 22 major wildfires. CAL FIRE has increased staffing in preparation for critical fire weather in multiple areas of the State.The latest numbers on the August #LightningSiege. More information at: https://t.co/6s2QmGvwFi pic.twitter.com/LbRDVBZSpP
Our firefighters are AMAZING.
Oh! Speaking of our thousands of heroic firefighters: our incarcerated firefighters (!) have been risking their lives to save others by getting certified and successfully performing wildfire firefighting duty during their prison sentences. They will finally be permitted to do this essential public service work after incarceration AND have their records cleared if California Assembly Bill 2147 reaches the governor’s desk. (Newsweek story here. It has passed in the Assembly, and there are some alignments happening with the state Senate, according to this data at trackbill.com. Various violent offenders are excluded from qualifying for the program.)
This bill corrects an otherwise exploitative practice – I’ve read elsewhere that they were paid about $3/day for their dangerous work (!), and were disqualified from working in the firefighting profession in which they are sorely needed due to their convictions. This corrective bill should pass!
Last weekend there was a thunderstorm, a PROPER one, the first we’ve had in more than a decade, easily. It impressed me. I thought it was novel.
It started more than 600 fires here in California.
Stepping outside when the smoke moves in midday is like standing over a campfire. Directly over a campfire.
This is… distracting. I know several people living near-ish to the fire; the two that are closest are the most modest about it, but are quite vigilant and have their things packed if they need to evacuate.
It’s a distraction from constantly read about the pandemic to constantly read about the fires, but another disaster was not exactly the distraction I was hoping for.
Here are some favorite resources for fire monitoring, in the order I rely on them:
CalFire on Twitter (twitter.com/CAL_FIRE/): includes posted reports, evacuation orders, and information sharing across federal, state, and local fire authorities. If you don’t like Twitter, you can also go to https://www.fire.ca.gov/ instead.
SUBSCRIPTION TEXT ALERT TOOLS: I receive text alerts from my city & county emergency services organizations (alertsf.org (Everbridge) and SF72.org), which are timely and useful, if frequent. If you don’t know your county emergency text alerts agency and you are here in California, you can look it up at calalerts.org (though the Stanislaus County link is wrong, so click here instead).
I haven’t mentioned it before, but my home state has also participated in supporting not only New York, but other states that need ventilators by loaning out 500 to those states that need them.
Early last month, the San Francisco Chronicle’s article, California lending 500 ventilators to distribute to hardest-hit states by Alexei Koseff (April 6, 2020), had some good quotes about states doing right by each other, including a report on Oregon’s loan of 140 ventilators to NYC, and Washington’s return of those it borrowed from the federal government.
The quotes I like are:
“I wish I could solve that for everybody, and to the extent we can, we will,” Newsom said. “This is the state of California. We have an abundant mind-set and we’re a well-resourced state.”
I like the implication that, because we do well, we SHOULD use our position to help others. (The article notes that our early prevention efforts have been successful enough for us to step in for the later-acting states.)
“We’re Americans, first and foremost,” he said. “As a nation-state, we can do certain things, where we can punch above our weight. We carry a big weight. But to the extent that other Americans need our support, our largesse, to the extent that we have the resources, we’re going to be there for as many people as we possibly can.”