RENO, Nev. — Dense smoke from major California wildfires continued to pour into the Reno-Lake Tahoe area Saturday, causing event cancellations to mount and local health officials to expand pollution warnings into Tuesday.
The latest weekend events scrubbed included a fundraising outdoor concert for cancer patients in Carson City, an outdoor family concert and a star-gazing party in the Minden area, and a Nevada-USF women’s soccer game in Reno.
Poor visibility also has prevented the Reno-based Care Flight air ambulance service from responding to some emergency calls in the last couple of days, said Temple Fletcher, its program director.
“There have been flights we can and can’t take depending on visibility,” she said. “But I’m not aware of any adverse outcome because of it. … Patients are being transported by ground instead.”
Care Flight helicopters can only operate when there’s visibility of 3 miles. But the smoke has reduced visibility to 1 mile in some areas along the eastern Sierra, including Reno and Carson City.
The air quality index around Reno remained in the “unhealthy” range as it hit the 153 mark late Saturday afternoon, down from 169 earlier in the day and 200 on Friday, according to the Washoe County Health District.
The smoke is coming from fires such as the Rim Fire along the northwest edge of Yosemite National Park, which has charred nearly 200 square miles and is just 5 percent contained. The American Fire in the Tahoe National Forest west of Reno has burned 34 square miles and is 67 percent contained.
Health officials expect the smoke to affect the Reno area at least through Tuesday, with unhealthy conditions that could harm the most vulnerable, such as the elderly and young children.
Thick smoke prompted school officials across the region to cancel all outdoor activities Friday, including football practices.
“This is pretty bad — the worst I’ve ever seen it in Reno,” Sean Abbey told the Reno Gazette-Journal, adding the smoke was making him cough and his eyes water. “There are people that are going to get sick over this.”
Officials at Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno and Northern Nevada Medical Center in Sparks reported an increase in patients with respiratory problems at their emergency rooms Friday.
The smoke also prompted the cancellation of an air show Saturday at Lake Tahoe.