Valley air officials urge caution due to wildfires

MADERA COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- The wildfires that have sparked in the foothills are affecting air quality. It got bad in some areas, prompting air officials to issue a health caution.

In the early morning hours, billowing smoke filled the skies over Oakhurst as the Sky Fire burned acre by acre. As the fire spreads, property owners, especially those living off Sky Ranch Road, have been keeping a close eye on the conditions.

"The smoke wasn't bad like this yesterday until after dark last night, but coming from town up the hill, here you could see the smoke real bad," Oakhurst resident Bill Skelton said. He and his kids woke up to thick smoke covering the area. They haven't been evacuated, but are taking precautions to stay safe and healthy by staying inside.

The thick smoke has many on alert, including air officials at the Valley Air District. "It's almost like there is a fog or an ash, or that they've walked into a smoke-filled room, and that's going into their lungs, and in some cases that's getting into their bloodstream," Valley Air District Chief Communications Officer Jaime Holt said. "Folks who are outside, regardless of their health, really need to come inside if they're seeing the smoke, if they're smelling the smoke."

Holt says those fires in Oakhurst, North Fork and Mariposa have caused the Valley Air District to issue a health caution. She said, "It's fairly early in the season for us to have three wildfires that are impacting air quality in the Valley."

They're urging residents, especially the young and those with medical issues, to stay indoors. Friday morning, the smoke was so thick, air support for the fire had to wait to fly over the area.

Local residents say they hope to see firefighters get the upper hand on this fire soon. "Tragic. Very upsetting to a lot of community people that live here," Coarsegold resident Danny Russell said.

With fire season underway, officials are reminding Valley residents to be cautious of warming temperatures and changing air quality.
Copyright © 2019 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.