Friday, August 21, 2020

Washoe County Health District, Air Quality Management Division Air Alert

Washoe County Health District Issues Stage 1 Air Pollution Alert
Wildfire smoke creating poor air quality conditions

Media Release
For Immediate Release

Contact: Scott Oxarart
775.328.2414 or 775.276.1021

Reno/Sparks, Nev. Aug. 20, 2020 – The Washoe County Health District – Air Quality Management Division (AQMD) has issued a Stage 1 Air Pollution Alert for Washoe County based on current air pollutions levels. This alert means that sensitive groups are susceptible to increased health risks and the alert is in effect until further notice.

Several wildfires in the Plumas and Mendocino National Forests, as well as the Loyalton Fire, are contributing to heavy smoke impacts in the Reno-Sparks area based on PM2.5 levels at the AQMD monitoring stations. Air quality in the Reno/ Sparks area is in the “Unhealthy” to “Very Unhealthy” ranges. Areas throughout Washoe County can expect similar smoke impacts and poor air quality conditions. 

Periods of heavy smoke and clearing may rapidly fluctuate during the day depending on wind patterns.

“Smoke impacts can affect some people more than others,” said Kevin Dick, District Heath Officer for Washoe County. “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.”

AQMD has issued these recommendations to reduce exposure to smoke:

  • 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

AQMD can issue Stage 1 (Alert), Stage 2 (Warning) or Stage 3 (Emergency) notifications with the Stage 3 alert meaning the conditions are the most severe. More information on the stages can be found here.

For the current air quality levels and forecasts go to or where you can sign up for Air Quality alerts and forecasts. You can also follow AQMD on Twitter and Facebook and please use the hashtag #BeSmokeSmart.

Visit for additional information on the Air Quality Management Division.

The Washoe County Health District is nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board and has jurisdiction over all public health matters in Reno, Sparks, and Washoe County through the policy-making Washoe County District Board of Health. The District consists of five divisions: Administrative Health Services, Air Quality Management, Community and Clinical Health Services, Environmental Health Services and Epidemiology & Public Health Preparedness. More info can be found here.

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