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Sonoma County air quality set to drop as more smoke from Northern California wildfires approaches

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A wind shift is expected to push more wildfire smoke from Northern California into Sonoma County on Wednesday, adding to the layer of haze blanketing the sky, air quality officials said.

The forecast has prompted the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to issue an air quality advisory for the region on Wednesday, said spokesman Aaron Richardson.

With offshore winds set to blow smoke over the Bay Area, air quality is expected to drop to moderate levels and is not expected to exceed federal health standards.

“There’s a whole slew of fires up north, even up in Oregon and Washington, and there’s just smoke swirling all around,“ Richardson said.

Smoke reaching the Bay Area is primarily coming from the McFarland fire in Shasta County, the Monument fire in Trinity County, the Caldor fire in El Dorado County, the River Complex in Siskiyou County and the Dixie fire in Butte, Plumas, Tehama and Lassen counties, according to the air quality district. The Dixie fire is more than a month old, has burned more than 600,000 acres and is currently the nation’s largest wildfire.

The Sonoma County Fire District on Tuesday said people were calling in with questions about the hazy skies.

"There are currently no fires in the immediate area,“ the district said just after 8 a.m. in a Facebook post.

With the smoke expected to worsen on Wednesday, the district warned residents to “be prepared.”

“Those with respiratory issues should remain indoors if possible with your HVAC system on recirculate,” the district said.

Wildfires are a consistent fear within the local wine sector, especially because smoke taint can permeate into the fruit and make it unusable, which was the case for many vineyards after last year’s Walbridge and Glass fires. The value of last year’s wine grape crop was cut in half as a result of the smoke.

So far this year, the haze from the giant Dixie fire has not had an effect on the local crop, as research indicates that smoke taint harm comes from fires in close proximity to vineyards. There is also a short half-life for exposure. Anecdotal evidence suggests it could be as little as 24 hours, according to findings from UC Davis.

But vintners are on guard, especially if conditions change. Grape harvests began earlier this month and typically run through late October.

Rick Tigner said wildfire smoke hasn’t caused any problems for the grapes used by Jackson Family Wines of Santa Rosa, where he is chief executive officer. The company has large vineyard holdings throughout Sonoma, Mendocino and Napa counties.

“We watch that smoke ring very closely in the vineyards,” Tigner said.

To check real-time air quality go to bit.ly/3xXVdmJ.

Staff Writer Bill Swindell contributed to this story.

You can reach Staff Writer Matt Pera at matthew.pera@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @Matt__Pera.

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