Stage 1 Air Pollution Alert as Washoe County air quality detiorates

Published: Aug. 19, 2020 at 1:24 PM PDT|Updated: Aug. 20, 2020 at 5:31 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - AUG. 20, 5:20 P.M. The Washoe County Health District on Thursday issued a Stage 1 Air Pollution Alert for Washoe County based on pollution from wildfires.

The alert from the Air Quality Management Division means sensitive groups are at increased health risks while the alert is in effect. There is no estimate when the alert will expire.

Wildfires in the Plumas, Lassen and Mendocino National Forests and the Loyalton Fire are dumping finer particulates into the area so air quality is in the “very unhealthy” range.

“Smoke impacts can affect some people more than others,” Kevin Dick, Washoe County district heath officer said in a statement. “Sensitive populations that are more susceptible to smoke impacts include children, the elderly, people with heart or lung problems, active adults and people with current respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19. We encourage everyone to be smoke smart and stay informed of air quality in Washoe County.”

The county issued these recommendations:

  • If you can see or smell smoke, avoid or reduce outdoor activities
  • Leave the smoke-impacted area until conditions improve, if possible
  • Stay indoors with the windows and doors closed; if possible, run the air conditioner on recirculation function
  • Limit outdoor exertion and physical activity
  • Avoid using a swamp cooler or whole-house fan to prevent bringing additional smoke inside
  • Face coverings that reduce the spread of COVID-19 do not protect you from wildfire smoke
  • N95 respirators can provide some protection but should be reserved for frontline health and emergency personnel during the pandemic

The next step would be Stage 2, or a warning. Stage 3 is an emergency.

UPDATE: The National Weather Service Reno has extended the Dense Smoke Advisory across western Nevada and eastern Sierra until 11 a.m Friday.

NWS Reno officials say “smoke including thicker particulate matter from active fires across California will continue to pour into the area. Air quality may fluctuate over the next 24 hours, but is expected to remain unhealthy into at least Friday morning.”

Visibility could be below 3 miles at times with unhealthy air quality for sensitive groups and those spending a prolonged period of time outdoors.

People are asked to stay indoors as much as possible. Avoid strenuous activity, especially if you are sensitive to poor air quality, such as the elderly, children and anyone with chronic illness or respiratory problems.


ORIGINAL: Air quality is deteriorating in Reno-Sparks and surrounding areas, prompting a Dense Smoke Advisory and an alert from the Washoe County School District.

The Washoe County Health District (WCHD) said air quality for the smallest particles was in the very unhealthy range and for particles 10 micrometers or smaller are in the unhealthy range. Ozone is moderate.

“We don’t often get into that range, but it can affect everybody,” Brendan Schnieder, Air Quality Specialist with the Washoe County Health District said.

The smoke advisory is in effect through Thursday morning for the Greater Reno-Carson-Sparks-Minden areas and the Tahoe Basin.

The smoke is coming from several fires burning in Northern and Central California.

California fires.
California fires.(CalFire)

The deteriorating air quality also prompted an alert from the Washoe County School District that all students will remain inside for the remainder of Wednesday, and that all district buildings will close after early release and there will be no after-school programs.

Schnieder added, “Children are considered one of the sensitive groups that are especially affected by air pollution. When it gets into these ranges, it can aggravate asthma, cause all sorts of other lung and heart ailments.”

The district canceled the following programs that take place on campuses for Wednesday, August 19, 2020:

City of Reno

City of Sparks

Kids Zone

Judy’s Kids

Boys & Girls Club activities

According to, the air quality is in the ’Unhealthy’ range and is expected to get worse. Health officials advise you to stay indoors and limit outside activity, keep windows and doors closed and air conditioning on, stay hydrated, and follow the advice of your doctor, especially those with heart or lung disease. It’s also important to keep the air inside your home or car as clean as possible.

“Don’t light candles, don’t smoke, don’t vacuum,” Schnieder said, “If you stop doing those, it doesn’t increase the particulates already in your home.”

With Coronavirus and fires at the forefront, the health district says to continue following Governor Steve Sisolak’s mandate.

Schnieder added, “Face coverings to reduce spreading COVID-19 do not help your lungs when there’s smoke at this level.”

For additional tips regarding air quality from the WCHD, click here.

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