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Rim Fire Fallout: Smoke Still Spreads from Blaze to Lake Tahoe, Reno and Beyond

| August 25, 2013
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NASA satellite image of smoke from the Rim Fire, in Tuolumne County west of Yosemite National Park, drifting over Lake Tahoe, Reno, and beyond. (NASA Worldview)

NASA satellite image of smoke from the Rim Fire, in Tuolumne County west of Yosemite National Park, drifting over Lake Tahoe, Reno, and beyond. (NASA Worldview)

Update Wednesday Aug. 28: Latest air quality and smoke information here.

Update Monday, Aug. 26: From the local website MyMotherLode:

The Tuolumne County Air Pollution Control District has extended the Air Quality Alert for Tuolumne County due to smoke impacts from the Rim Fire. The Air Quality Alert is now in effect until 12 PM on Wednesday.

Update, Sunday, Aug. 25: As the 200-square-mile Rim Fire burns west of Yosemite National Park, smoke continues to be a problem for areas to the north and northeast—notably the Lake Tahoe basin and the Reno-Carson City area. Heavy smoke forced cancellation of a popular Lake Tahoe air show on Saturday, partly out of concern about visibility, partly out of concern for spectators who would be outdoors breathing unhealthy levels of particulate matter.

And the smoke just keeps coming. Air-quality officials in Tuolumne County, where the Rim Fire was raged for more than a week, today issued an air-quality alert warning all residents to avoid prolonged outdoor activity. (Of course, that’s a problem for wildland firefighters, who may spend days or even weeks at a time in the midst of heavy smoke.)

Farther from the center of the fire, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow site shows a large swath of smoky air rated as unhealthy stretching from the central San Joaquin Valley, across the Sierra Nevada and Lake Tahoe region into northwestern Nevada. And the smoke forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration promises a spike of smoky air in the Lake Tahoe and Reno areas early Monday morning and only a slow improvement over the next several days.

Original post (Friday, Aug. 23): The fire racing through forests on the western boundary of Yosemite National Park is causing serious air-quality issues around the Lake Tahoe basin and in Washoe County, Nev., which includes Reno, and in the Nevada state capital, Carson City. NOAA satellite photographs (above) show massive smoke plumes spreading northeast from the Rim Fire, which has burned 105,000 acres since it ignited earlier this week due to as-yet-undetermined causes.

The Washoe County Air Quality Management District issued an advisory for air with high levels of particulate and ozone pollution. The agency rates the air today as “unhealthy” for all groups—both the general population as well as sensitive groups such as children, seniors, and those who suffer from long-term heart and lung conditions. Unhealthy air conditions are expected to last at least through the weekend.

Earlier this week, the American Fire, burning in heavily forested hills northeast of Auburn, also spread smoke across the Tahoe-Reno area. That fire has burned about 20,000 acres and is 66 percent contained.

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Category: Environment, Fire, Natural Disasters, Science

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About the Author ()

Dan Brekke has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.
  • SLT1

    We can finally see blue skies and sun in South Lake Tahoe! Still some smoke, not as bad as the last few days. We have high winds blowing right now (4:41pm PST).

  • LoveDawn

    I hope people will take heed. The heavy smoke and blood red moons of the past few days were nothing less than warnings. Only now has it started to clear up and I believe the great God Almighty has taken some mercy. Let us remember to keep our Sabbaths (Saturday’s) holy. Amen.

    (Yes I’m aware this post will be unpopular due to the spiritual implications but honestly they’re not hurting anyone so get over yourself :)

  • JP

    Anyone who believes that a loving God is also a punishing God who creates fires to hurt people should reexamine their life. Get over being brainwashed.

  • SLT ghost

    Think we’ll be clear for the fire works show ?

  • JC

    I have a vacation planned September 7-14 2013 in South Lake Tahoe should I cancel??

    • BW

      My wedding is on the 14th in Zephyr Cove (outside)! Keep us posted please!

  • brian

    we are planning on coming up for the weekend…thoughts?