Poor air quality affects the Bay Area


Jai Uparkar

There was a hint of smoke in the air and no one could detect the source. The grey haze looked like the common fog that hugs the coast of the Bay Area during the mornings.

Early in the morning on Monday, October 9, the wind in Northern California had blown smoke from multiple fires that started in Mendocino, Sonoma, Napa and Lake County south, and caused the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to issue a smoke advisory.

The fires were hard to contain due to the harsh winds that reached over 50 mph, causing it to spread quickly. Students and teachers at MVHS noticed the smoke from the start of the day, including sophomore Alex Suppiah.

“[I noticed the air quality] a little bit towards the beginning of the day,” Suppiah said. “But I’ve gotten used to it […] so I don’t notice it now.”

The smoke affected the PE teachers as well, as their lesson plans clashed with the poor air quality. Many PE teachers had to reschedule their entire lessons to account for the smoke that could be hazardous to the student’s health. Many of them, including Julie Sullivan, decided to hold class indoors so that their students would not have to breathe the poor air.

“In my classes, we started our badminton unit,” Sullivan said. “So we stayed inside and did our cardio inside, and all the doors were closed. It wasn’t until I left [MVHS] and went to the gym after school and [the TVs on the equipment] showed seven or eight fires. I was freaking out.”

While smoky air is uncommon in the Bay Area, it was familiar to some students who have lived in Asian countries, where pollution is an imminent problem.

“It reminded me of Nepal,” Suppiah said. “[The air there is] really dry, and there’s always a fire going on so [it always smells like] smoke.”

For Sullivan, the gas-filled air reminded her of her own experiences in Lake Tahoe, which she visited this past summer. This experience allowed her to sympathize with the victims of the fire. Although she was 124 miles away, there were fires in Yosemite that affected her while she was there.

“One of the days [while I was in Lake Tahoe], I opened up my windows,” Sullivan said. “My house smelled of smoke so bad I had to shut all the windows and I left and I hung out with my friends in Truckee.”

According to Newsweek, the California wildfires have claimed 11 lives, and destroyed 110,000 acres of land on Monday night alone. The fires began on Sunday night and continued to grow until there were 18 fires across seven counties.

Wildfires have become increasingly common due to global warming, as carbon emissions are exponentially rising. With this increase in carbon emissions comes a drastic rise of greenhouse gases, which in turn speeds up the process of evaporation, making land drier and more prone to severe and long-lasting wildfires.

However, freshman Parsaa Alimadade believes wildfires are not a product of global warming. Instead, he believes that the occurrence of a wildfire is unpredictable.

“Mainly people would blame it on global warming or climate change but I’m really not about that and I really think it’s unpredictable,” Alimadade said. “You can’t really control it.”

For Sullivan, the main concern is those affected.

“I feel bad now for all these people because so many people are displaced,” Sullivan said. “They don’t even know if their houses have burned down, they can’t get back in because they don’t have control of the fires.”