Smoke clearing in South Lake Tahoe, some health risks remain |

Smoke clearing in South Lake Tahoe, some health risks remain

Staff Report

Emma Garrard/Nevada Appeal News Service Toby Citret rides his bike down Highway 89 while wearing a mask on Tuesday afternoon. Officials said Thursday that the air was relatively safe.

Smoke from the Angora fire is starting to clear, but health officials say the remaining smoke could irritate people with respiratory problems.

Health officials said the air around South Lake Tahoe on Thursday was relatively safe. Just Wednesday, however, it was listed as hazardous.

Rescue workers had the fire more than half contained on Thursday. It has destroyed 229 homes since Sunday.

Except for three firefighters who were treated earlier this week, Barton Memorial Hospital in South Lake Tahoe has had no patients with serious injuries from the smoke. However, sports, concerts and other events on the south end of the lake have been canceled as a precaution, said Denise Sloan, representative for the hospital.

Older people should be particularly cautious of the smoke, she said, especially because it might contain toxins like particles of insulation.

Marcella McTaggart, the El Dorado air pollution control officer, said cool air made the air quality bad Thursday morning, but it got better by the afternoon.

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She said state health officials are using five portable monitors to track the air.

People who are naturally sensitive to smoke or have lung disease are the ones who have to be most careful, she said.

“It’s getting much better, especially today,” McTaggart said Thursday.

David Burlison, a respiratory manager at the Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center, about 30 miles northeast of South Lake Tahoe, said “quite a few” people have come in to the hospital complaining of non-serious respiratory problems.

People could get more sick if they don’t follow some basic precautions, he said, such as:

• Stay indoors if possible

• Use air purifiers, humidifiers or air conditioning to filter the air

• Contact your physician to make sure you correctly adjust doses of any breathing-related medicines you may be taking

• Contact your physician or call 911 if you don’t get relief from breathing problems

“A lot of it is pretty basic,” Burlison said, “but, unfortunately, not everybody follows the basics.”