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As we head into a second full day of out-of-control wildfires across Northern California, residents in areas of nearby areas like Marin County, San Francisco, and Oakland aren't untouched by the blaze: Smoke and air fill our skies, leading to health problems for the vulnerable and the bittersweet spectacle of sunrises and sunsets enhanced by the particulate in the air.

Read all of SFist's coverage of the North Bay wildfires here

According to an alert sent Tuesday morning by AlertSF, San Francisco's emergency alert system, air quality in the city will continue to be diminished Tuesday as a result of the smoke and ash still in the skies.

This can pose problems for many, San Francisco Department of Public Health spokesperson Rachael Kagan says, especially those with health concerns, the elderly, and children.

Kagan says that the blanket of smoke can cause eye and throat irritation, coughing, and difficulty breathing for folks with heart issues, allergies, and asthma (to name just a few conditions exacerbated by poor air quality).

In addition, the Fairfield Police Department said in a press release sent to media, there are "harmful chemicals" in the wildfire smoke that can sicken even otherwise healthy people.

Alert SF urges people who are suffering from the effects of the smoke to seek shelter at the SF Main, Chinatown, Mission Bay or Glen Park branch libraries, as "they have filtered air and are available for respite from poor air quality."

Kagan also urges residents to avoid outdoor activities anywhere you "can see, taste, or feel smoke," which basically leaves out anywhere outdoors in the Bay Area and a lot of places indoors. She said you should contact your doctor if you start to suffer from the following issues:

  • Repeated coughing
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Palpitations
  • Nausea or unusual fatigue
  • Lightheadedness

If you believe the symptoms are life-threatening, Kagan says, call 911. But, remember, do not call 911 to report a fire just because you smell smoke! If you see flames, give them a call, otherwise please hold off. If you have questions about smoke or ask, call 311. Don't tie up our emergency services lines unnecessarily.

Healthy people should make sure they stay that way, Kagan says, by observing the following suggestions:

  • Stay indoors with windows and doors closed as much as possible
  • Do not run fans that bring smoky outdoor air inside
  • Run your air-conditioner only if it does not bring smoke in from the outdoors
  • Consider leaving the area until smoke conditions improve if you experience symptoms related to smoke exposure

Smoky sunrise #napafire #sausalito

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Of course, many of those suggestions aren't an option for the city's homeless population. According to Kagan, the city's Homeless Outreach Team "is performing wellness checks throughout San Francisco and providing transport upon request for unsheltered people to MSC South (525 5th St), the Medical Respite and Sobering Center (1171 Mission St) and Next Door Shelter (1001 Polk Street)."

Homeless people who need transport or care are asked to contact the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing Services by calling 311.

And if you think traditional face masks will keep you safe, think again. According to SF Weekly, the CDC says that "traditional masks, like those found in hardware stores, are only designed to capture large particles of matter such as sawdust. Tiny particles, such as those found in wildfire smoke, will still pass through the filters."

If you're seeking a mask that'll do the trick, particulate respirators are the way to go. But let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Instead, the Weekly advises, head to the water. Citing a map from AirNow, the EPA"s air quality site, they say "it appears that areas on the east and west edges of the city (near the water) are slightly less toxic than the central neighborhoods."

Smoke over San Francisco

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Another reason to head to the water: The gorgeous sunrises and sunsets we'll see as long as the fires continue to burn. While a pretty photo you can post to Instagram is miles away from a "silver" lining to the fatal destruction our northern neighbors are suffering, in dark days like this I believe we have to take beauty whenever we can find it.

This morning's #bernal #sunrise brought to you by the #northbayfires

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The smokey haze covering the city from the #wildfires 😷 #sf #northerncalifornia #norcal

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The smoke is no joke today! #rasflife #napafire #sf

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