Calaveras chokes on Rim smoke

By Mike Morris / The Union Democrat

Smoke from Tuolumne County's massive Rim Fire has caused poor air quality stretching from surrounding foothill counties to the eastern Sierra and beyond.

In Calaveras County to the north, the air pollution control district has issued two wildfire smoke advisories during the past week.

"It's actually better today than it has been," Brian Moss, the county's air pollution control officer, said Monday. "Certainly, Calaveras County has been impacted in the past week."

The advisories warn county residents that smoke can affect their health, including eye and throat irritation, coughing and difficulty breathing. Officials advise staying hydrated and minimizing outdoor activity, especially exercise.

The Calaveras Community Band has cancelled its Labor Day concert at Murphys Community Park because of the difficulty of performing in smoky conditions.

While Calaveras County schools have not closed, Tuolumne County schools, including Columbia College, closed Monday and today. It was undetermined this morning if they would remain closed Wednesday.

Calaveras County Superintendent of Schools Kathy Northington said staff throughout the county's four school districts are mindful of the smoke.

"(Students) may be asked to stay indoors and limit their physical activity," she said Monday.

Heavy smoke from the Rim Fire has prompted health advisories as far away as Reno, Nev.

Those displaced by the fire are being sent to the Mother Lode Fairgrounds in Sonora.

Meanwhile, the Calaveras County Fairgrounds in nearby Angels Camp has opened up its RV park for free to those evacuated. As of Friday afternoon, no evacuees have stayed there.

"We are here. We are available," fairgrounds CEO Laurie Giannini said. "There's water, power and sewer. We can house animals."

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