California fires making more pollution than a year of traffic

THE RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL – BENJAMIN SPILLMAN

There’s enough wildfire activity in California and Nevada to blanket both much of both states with a layer of smoke in the coming days.

In California alone more than 140,000 acres are burning in large, wildland fires throughout the state. A fire in rough terrain near Reno is also contributing to smoke in northern Nevada.

In just the past two days fires in California’s wine country are thought to have produced as much small particulate matter as all the vehicles in the state produce in a year.

“It’s a lot,” said Sean Raffuse, an air quality analyst at the Crocker Nuclear Laboratory at University of California, Davis.

Although the early estimates are rough, Raffuse said the fires in wine country have probably produced about 10,000 tons of PM 2.5, an air pollutant that’s the main cause of haze in the United States.

By way of comparison, it takes the approximately 35 million on-road vehicles in California a year to generate a similar amount of PM 2.5, Raffuse said.

“Interestingly, these fuels are relatively light compared to some areas,” Raffuse said of the fires in wine country. “For example, I would expect the Redwood Valley Fire burning in Mendocino County to produce 2-3 times more smoke per acre burned.”

The amount of smoke is significant because PM 2.5 is associated with respiratory and cardiovascular problems in people.

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