Local sports, events cancelled as smoke builds in Bay Area

Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Smoke hangs thick in the air above Los Altos Hills Wednesday afternoon.

Local schools and athletic programs are cancelling events as smoke from the wine country wildfires thickens across Los Altos. 

 Los Altos High School's athletic department cancelled outdoor practices and games Wednesday and pre-emptively called off cross-country practice today (Oct. 12), waiting to make the call on other sports as the day progressed. Although wind and weather patterns make the smoke forecast uncertain, anticipated unhealthy air quality led Loyola School to cancel the Walk-a-thon planned Saturday, and Miramonte School called off the Fall Festival planned Sunday. 

"The health of our students, as well as all of our participants... must be first and foremost," Loyola Principal Kimberly Attell told parents. "Loyola, in the past, has put on Walk-a-thons in hot weather and rain. However, the air quality predictions for the next few days indicate levels that none of us should (be) breathing into our lungs."

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s monitoring stations saw pollution index readings as high as 174 in Napa, and 112-158 on the Peninsula and South Bay as of Thursday morning. Any index level above 151 is rated as "unhealthy" for human activity outdoors. Residents are advised to stay inside with windows and doors closed when possible.

In a health advisory the district said that "unprecedented levels" of air pollution were expected to continue for days to come throughout the Bay Area. Outside of active fire areas, air quality may improve or get worse very quickly as changing wind patterns move smoke across the region.

The California Department of Public Health has been warning those looking for a mask to provide smoke protection that only some masks actually filter wildfire smoke particles. They recommend selecting "particulate respirator" masks labelled with NIOSH approval and a rating of either N95 or P100. Many stores and pharmacies have reported reduced mask supplies, but they are also available for purchase online. The masks, which must be secured with two straps behind the head and sized correctly, are not produced in sizes to fit young children. Surgical masks do not protect against smoke particles.

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