Smoke still puts wrench into prep slate

Smokey conditions continue throughout western Nevada and threaten outdoor activities including high school sports.

As a result of the King Fire, the Northern Division I-A cancelled its girls golf tournament in Sparks on Wednesday, according to Churchill County High School Athletic Director Brad Daum. He said no make-up date has been determined and it is possible it may not be made up.

Fallon’s volleyball match at Truckee on Tuesday was also cancelled and Daum said no make-up date has been announced. He added the Northern DI-A cross-country meet at Dayton on Friday is still on.

From Wednesday night to Thursday morning, the King Fire east of Placerville, Calif., now covers more than 70,000 acres with only 5 percent containment and Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency, according to media reports.

The great unknown, however, is Friday and Saturday’s slate of athletic competition including numerous football games throughout the region.

Assistant Director of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association Donnie Nelson reiterated Thursday the decision to relocate or cancel events is on individual school districts. The NIAA, however, is working with its member schools and districts to find solutions to ensure games go on, especially since Nevada schools are in the middle of league play.

Nelson said it is more effective if the districts affected decide to cancel or postpone an event since those individuals are closer to the situation.

He also said schools are looking ahead to today’s varsity football games and if conditions worsen, will move those games to Saturday.

“Today is the transition day,” Nelson said. “We are hoping that wind pattern changes. It is a decision to be made on site. Of course, everybody is keeping in mind the health, safety and well fare of the student-athletes.”

As for Fallon, Daum said Friday’s football game at South Tahoe is still scheduled as is the girls soccer match between the two schools. However, if South Lake Tahoe becomes blanketed in smoke, Daum said the games may be moved to Fallon or possibly to a neutral site.

Lake Tahoe Unified School District Public Information Officer Angie Keil said the El Dorado (Calif.) County Air Quality Management Department reported Thursday the air quality was safe.

In Reno, the situation is more dire as Washoe County cancelled all events on Tuesday due to an unhealthy air quality index level. Friday and Saturday’s contests are also at the mercy of the smoke.

The silver lining, however, is the National Weather Service in Reno is forecasting a shift in the wind for the weekend.

Meterologist Chris Smallcomb said winds are expected to move in from the east and northeast, which would alleviate the smoke.

“It should keep the thicker smoke away from the area,” he added. “However, some haze is possible. We are expecting hazy conditions tomorrow (today). We are looking at a chance of thunderstorms each afternoon (today through Sunday). It’s isolated activity and whether or not it would do anything to the fire is highly unlikely.”

Should the smoke remain in Reno, Brian Rothe, Washoe County coordinator of Athletics and Activities, said schools have been proactive in working with other districts to find locations for their events.

Rothe and Nelson both said the trouble with the smoke is the unexpected turns in weather conditions. Both reported the air quality was awful Thursday morning.

But Rothe said the smoke has cleared by the afternoon on several different days. He also said it is possible for an event to start and then be stopped by the conditions.

“They are being proactive and working cooperatively with other districts,” Rothe said. “However … everyone is susceptible to smoke. It’s still a business where people have to make decisions. They are still game-time decisions.”

Last year’s Rim and American fires forced Reno schools to play in locations such as Lovelock, Winnemucca and Walker Lake. This year, however, schools such as Fallon and Fernley have been rumored as emergency sites.

“We are appreciative of districts like yours who are working with our coaches,” Rothe added. “You don’t like to cancel games. It’s a hardship for kids and parents.”


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