Wildfires Promise a Toxic Summer for California

July 13, 2021

Sacramento Bee:

The deadliest wildfire in California history spewed a toxic cocktail of air pollution that could be detected 150 miles away.

A study released Monday by the California Air Resources Board said the 2018 Camp fire subjected area residents to unhealthy levels of particulate matter, zinc, lead and other dangerous chemicals.

The report came as California struggles with the early onset of another difficult wildfire season, with more than 142,000 acres burned already.

Yet the air board’s study said the Camp fire was particularly noxious because of the extraordinary number of buildings that burned down, releasing an unusually high volume of chemicals into the air. The November 2018 fire, which killed 85 people, destroyed more than 10,000 homes in Paradise and surrounding areas.

The study compared the air pollution effect of the Camp fire with three other big fires from 2018 — Carr, Mendocino Complex and Ferguson — and discovered that the destruction of buildings in Paradise unleashed considerably more toxicity into the air.

“When wildfires burn structures, they produce a range of harmful and toxic substances,” the air board’s study said.. “CARB’s analysis shows this was indeed the case during the Camp Fire, when elevated levels of lead and zinc were detected, as well as calcium, iron and manganese.

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