The Western U.S. is in the midst of what scientists say is the worst drought in 1,200 years.
And that’s helping fuel the Mosquito Fire, which has burned more than 50,000 acres of the Sierra Nevada mountains west of Lake Tahoe.
Reno residents and others in Western Nevada, like last year, are living in a blanket of smoke and haze. The scenario is becoming so common, the question some now ask is how do we live with it?
Christina Restaino is the director of the University of Nevada-Reno Extension’s “Living with Fire” program.
State of Nevada host Joe Schoenmann speaks with Restaino, an assistant professor and natural resources specialist, about what it means for folks in the American West to live with fire.
When it comes to air quality, an index score over 150 is considered an unhealthy amount of pollution, but measurements taken Wednesday morning were closer to 350, well into the hazardous range.
That's why health officials are urging residents to stay inside, close all doors and windows and reduce their activity.
However, not everyone has that option.
Smoke can cause several health issues, she said, within the lungs, or by causing nausea or headaches. People who have asthma or are older experience fatigue and difficulty breathing. It can also cause anxiety.
“Where your schools are closed, you're home with your kids, you're trying to work, you can't get outside, everyone has a headache, nobody feels good. That general discomfort and anxiety, and then it starts to become this more kind of existential anxiety about, ‘Why do we live here? Should we be moving?’”
It’s important to have a clean indoor space, one with air conditioning or air purifiers, though not everyone has access to one. She said every single home and classroom should have that.
"I think schools really need to be invested in as clean air spaces. There needs to be clean air evacuation spaces in these schools. We should never have to close schools and have people stay home who are living in a car or living in a place that doesn't have A/C or electricity or somewhere to have clean air," Restaino said.
Living With Fire makes recommendations to residents living in areas affected by wildfires, and was started in 1997.
Christina Restaino, assistant professor and natural resources specialist, University of Nevada-Reno Extension