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County issues Stage 2 air quality alert due to smoke from Dixie Fire (updated)


Due to anticipated smoke from area wildfires, a Stage 2 Emergency Episode was issued Thursday by the Washoe County Health District’s Air Quality Management Division.

The Dixie Fire in Butte and Plumas counties in California continues to be the main wildfire contributing to the poor air quality locally. As of approximately 8:30 p.m. Thursday, the fire was almost 362,000 acres and 35% contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. By Friday morning, the U.S. Forest Service reported it had grown to nearly 433,000 acres.

Its cause is under investigation.

The air quality index for the Reno-Sparks area is expected reach “unhealthy” to “very unhealthy” on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, county health officials say. The unhealthy range is from 151 to 200 and the very unhealthy range is from 201 to 300. Anything higher than 300 is “hazardous,” while anything 50 and lower is “good.”

A Stage 2 Emergency Episode means that everyone should stay indoors and reduce activity levels due to the susceptibility of increased health risks.

Smoke from the Dixie Fire hangs over Palomino Valley near Pyramid Highway and Whiskey Springs Road on Aug. 5, 2021. Image: Dan O’Day

Periods of heavy smoke and clearing may rapidly fluctuate during the weekend depending on wind patterns. The county has issued these recommendations to reduce exposure to smoke:

  • Avoid or reduce outdoor and physical activities.
  • Stay indoors with the windows and doors closed; if possible, run the air conditioner on recirculation function.
  • Avoid using a swamp cooler or whole-house fan to prevent bringing additional smoke inside.
  • People should consult their physician for health questions, especially those with heart and lung issues.

This is the third time this season the health district has issued a Stage 2 alert, with the last one being about two weeks ago.

“Please do not report”

Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District on Friday morning also said 911 operators have been inundated with calls to report smoke and ash in the air. Officials asked residents to “please do not report,” as it blocks access to emergency services for more urgent needs.

This story has been updated to report on the Dixie Fire’s growth overnight from Aug. 5 to Aug. 6.

Carla O'Day
Carla O'Day
Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.