On Wednesday and Thursday, if you happened to go outside, you probably noticed the smoke-filled air, and you may have thought the smoke was coming from a forest fire in our foothills, or in Yosemite National Park.
You would have been wrong.
The smoke was coming from the Bay area, where wildfires have been destroying the wine country and a large area of the city of Santa Rosa, which has about 175,000 residents.
The residents of Santa Rosa are dumbfounded by the destruction. Much of their beautiful city has been turned into an ash heap, and it likely will be years before the mess is fully cleaned up.
One of the things they will have to deal with is the stench, and we know all about that, because a good share of the stench is being born on the wind to our air basin, where the smoke has been heading ever since the fire started.
This fire is illustrating once again how our air basin is victimized by pollution from the Bay Area.
Untold thousands of tons of carbon-dioxide, other gases and soot, are blown into the San Joaquin Valley every day from the Bay Area, even when it isn’t on fire.
Hundreds of thousands of cars and trucks are spewing pollution from their engines 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as they travel the freeways, roads and streets of the Bay area. Because of “favorable” winds, most of that pollution gets blown over here, where we have to deal with it.
The smoke being blown to us from these fires still burning in some areas is an additional insult to people who are sensitive to air pollution, who have to stay indoors to preserve their health.
Now, we don’t blame the Bay Area folks for these fires. Lord knows they are victims even more than we are, and they are in our hearts and our prayers.
But when we step outside and smell what they are going through, it’s a reminder that a big share of our air-pollution problems are the result of Bay Area activities and prevailing winds. We hope that in this time of crisis for them, they don’t suffer any more than we do.