Creek Fire: Farm work goes on amid smoky conditions

Once the Air Quality Index hits the unhealthy range, employers are required to have N95 masks available.
FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Despite the smoky conditions, the work never ends on Valley farms.

The lemongrass crop had to be cut and packed so orders could quickly be filled.

But because of the layer of smoke hovering, crews on David Sarabian's farm were all wearing N95 respirators.

Sarabian said, "All the workers are wearing masks. We're going with the N95 masks just to keep the particulates from getting into their lungs."

Sarabian made the N95 masks available to all of his employees so they can keep the smoke out of their system.

But he knew some of them preferred face coverings which are looser, even if they offered less protection than N95 masks.

"Yes, they are tighter. Some of them, like every group of rebels, don't like the discomfort of them and we try to stress to them to keep them on but when you're not there, you can't be there all day to watch what they do," he said.

The need for masks on the farm started during the pandemic.

They were difficult to find at first but the State of California has made 13 million masks available to essential ag businesses.

Sarabian said, "We couldn't get the PPEs we needed and then we were able to find some through the Fresno County Ag Department to get us through the hump. Now the farm bureau has some. It's loosened up."

Once the Air Quality Index reached 151, the unhealthy range, employers were required to offer outdoor workers N95 respirators.
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