USA SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) — The smoke from the Soberanes Fire burning in Monterey County is drifting northward and has created a blanket of haze over San Jose and the greater South Bay.
The haze that has created a blanket over the South Bay is a big concern to doctors, who report an increase in the number of patients complaining of irritated eyes and airways.
WATCH VIDEO: Soberanes Fire affecting Bay Area air quality
Katharine Nelson, M.D., an asthma specialist at the South Bay Allergy and Asthma group in Los Gatos, explains how the particulate matter is compromising our lungs. “These are the small areas of the lungs, and the particulate matter can actually get down into the small airways of the lung and can cause asthma, mucous overproduction, wheezing, and can even cause decreased oxygenation to the blood,” she said.
That is a particular concern for patients with asthma or COPD, doctors say. They will need to avoid the smoke, according to James Wolfe, M.D., a clinical professor at Stanford with a private practice in San Jose. “They may have to stay in the house, close the windows, use air conditioning that recirculates if they have that opportunity within the house, and when they drive in the car, roll up the windows,” he said.
RELATED: Bay Area firefighters help battle 15,000 acre Soberanes Fire
The haze may appear to dissipate as it spreads north and east to other parts of the Bay Area, but specialists say the general public should remain cautious about exercising outdoors.
The American Lung Association of California says air quality has improved, but the wild card is the smoke generated by wild fires and that’s a long-term concern. “The larger implications of having climate change and drought and record heat waves, that’s going to lead to more and more wildfires, which is really going to have this longer term impact on peoples’ health,” American Lung Association of California spokesperson Vanessa Marvin said. The Bay Area’s hills and mountains also appear to be aggravating the situation, trapping the haze and now allowing it to dissipate.
There are road closures in effect due to the fire. Officials say Palo Colorado Road at Highway 1, Robinson Canyon Road south of Penon Peak Trail and Weston Ridge Road at Highway 1 are closed.
The fire has led 300 residents to evacuate from the Palo Colorado community, Old Coast Road, Rocky Creek Road, Bixby Creek Road from state Highway 1 south to Mesa Road, Corona Road east of Highway 1 and Riley Ranch Road east of Highway 1, Cal Fire officials said.
An evacuation center has been set up at Carmel Middle School, according to Cal Fire. People have been warned to leave southern parts of Carmel Highlands, the area south of Rancho San Carlos, White Rock and Old Coast Road south from Bixby Creek to Little Sur River, Cal Fire officials said.
The Community Foundation for Monterey County is collecting monetary donations to help people affected by the fire. More information on making a contribution can be found online at https://www.cfmco.org/about-us/fund-list/soberanes-fire-fund.