Strong winds increase risk for wildfire; smoke, haze expected to continue over the weekend

Strong winds predicted for the area Thursday night and Friday bring potential for another fire as Reno remains blanketed by smoky orange skies resulting from California wildfire smoke.

The National Weather Service also issued a red flag warning for the greater Lake Tahoe area Thursday, and it is to stay in effect until 11 p.m. Friday. The areas affected by this warning include the Reno-Tahoe area and the Eastern Sierra.

According to Adam Mayberry, the communications manager for the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District, it is imperative that the public pay attention to this warning. 

Using outdoor grills, including gas grills, are prohibited. Mayberry also warns against using power tools and target practicing because they can create sparks.

Southwest winds are predicted to shift to the west on Friday.

With winds that could reach up to 40 miles per hour, a small spark could soon turn into a bigger fire. With resources already spread thin, the fire could spread faster before first responders could be deployed, Mayberry said. 

According to a press release from the North Tahoe Fire Protection Unit, the public should be prepared to evacuate and be self-sustaining for at least 72 hours. 

“This is about neighbor supporting neighbor,” Mayberry said. 

A dense smoke advisory was also issued Thursday for Mineral and Southern Lyon Counties, Mono County, Surprise Valley in California, Lassen-Eastern Plumas-Eastern Sierra Counties, Greater Lake Tahoe Area, Greater Reno-Carson City- Minden Area and Northern Washoe County. It is in effect until 11 a.m. Friday.

People are advised to stay indoors as much as possible. 

More:Hazard Mapping System: Fire and Smoke

According to the Air Quality Index (AQI), Reno was at 195 Thursday, which is considered an unhealthy level.  However, it is forecasted to be at a moderate level Friday.

The poor air quality, a result of the wildfires, forced the Washoe County School District to move to distance learning Thursday, although it has been monitored and assessed on a daily basis. It is the fifth school day in a row that poor air quality has closed schools and the 10th day since schools opened for the fall semester on Aug. 18.

According to Mark Deutschendorf, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, the smoke and haze will be present during the weekend. Although the National Weather Service cannot predict the exact air quality levels, it will not be worse than what Reno has seen this past week. 

“It’s not likely to be as bad as it’s been, but it’s not going to be as good as it could be,” Deutschendorf said. 

Possible rain near Highway 95 this weekend will help mitigate the smoke in the area, he said. 

More:Update: Full distance learning for WCSD as smoke remains in Truckee Meadows

Officials advise the public to limit their time outdoors and to schedule exercises indoors. Those with lung or heart disease, young children and the elderly must pay more attention to their health. 

Kristin Oh is a public safety reporter for the Reno Gazette Journal. She can be reached at koh@rgj.com. Please help support her work by subscribing