Poor air quality almost cancels high school football game in Clovis

CLOVIS, Calif. (KFSN) -- A football game at Clovis High School's Lamonica Stadium was almost called off Friday night due to very poor air quality.

The pollution levels in Clovis briefly touched into the level 5 -- or very unhealthy -- category, but dropped just low enough to meet the district's policy and keep the kids on the field.

Friday nights are supposed to packed with tackles and cheers, but this game something else lingered -- a thick haze of dangerous air pollution known to the experts as particulate matter. And smoke from the fireworks added to the haze.

Manuel Rodriguez has an asthmatic son, who plays on the team. He and his wife say they're concerned about dangerous pollution levels but trust their son to let them know if it's too much.

"I can only speak for our son, and I don't think it will. I think he'll be OK," said Rodriguez.

Even though pollution readings weren't enough to cancel games in Clovis and Fresno school districts, Kevin Hall with the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition says the dirty air is simply too harmful to be out in.

"The guidance for everyone is to stay indoors, not just the athletes," he said. "So, it's not even safe to be sitting in the stands tonight, much less playing on the field."

Clovis Unified says it needs two consecutive hourly pollution readings at level 5 from the Valley Air District in order to cancel a game. Hall says that's simply too risky considering the recommendation at level 4. The unhealthy category reads: "Everyone should avoid prolonged or vigorous outdoor activities."

"What we're seeing in Clovis and Fresno last night and tonight are games being played that should not have been played," said Hall.

The Valley Air District says we're seeing the perfect storm of weather conditions and pollution to create these hazy skies -- a clear view of particulate matter we are all breathing in.

The Rodriguez family says they still trust the district's policies.

"They still say it's OK to play, but they do monitor it. And I know that they have the kids' best interest at heart," said Vanessa Rodriguez.

Both Fresno and Clovis Unified did cancel some outdoor activities earlier in the day.

Conditions are expected to remain mostly unhealthy for much of the Valley on Saturday.

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