Reno air improves after dense smoke advisory

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RENO, Nev. (AP) — For the first time since a smoky haze drifted into western Nevada more than a week ago from a huge California wildfire nearly 100 miles away, the National Weather Service issued a "dense smoke advisory" for Reno and Lake Tahoe on Monday before shifting winds pushed the worst of it back west across the Sierra.

The advisory stretched south through Carson City and Gardnerville and as far east as Lovelock, about 90 miles east of Reno.

Forecasters said earlier in the day they didn't expect much improvement on the Sierra's eastern front until Wednesday. But in Reno, the Air Quality Index that registered in the range considered "unhealthy" for sensitive populations Monday morning had improved to the "moderate" range by 4 p.m. but was back at unhealthy levels by sunset. The weather service issued a new dense smoke advisory for 2 to 8 p.m. Tuesday.

"A dense smoke advisory is issued when smoke from wildfires significantly reduces visibilities making it difficult to see and breathe," the service said in a statement noting that visibility was reduced to less than 1 mile at times in some places.

"Persons in the advisory area should avoid prolonged exposure to the smoke and stay indoors," the service said.

Northeast of Sacramento, California, the shifting winds sent the AQI into the "very unhealthy" level for general populations in Auburn — where some schools closed, as well as the Roseville and Rockville areas. By 4 p.m., it was flirting with entering into the most serious range of "hazardous," county air quality officials reported.

Crews scrambled Monday to extend control lines around the massive King Fire threatening thousands of homes as they braced for strong, erratic winds similar to when the blaze doubled in size a week ago. The fire east of Sacramento had burned through 137 square miles, an increase of about 9 square miles overnight despite crews making some progress Sunday in cooler and slightly wet conditions.

The smoke forced cancellation Sunday of the annual Ironman triathlons at Lake Tahoe, and the closure of some California schools west of Tahoe on Monday.

"As much as we were all looking forward to this event, I am confident that the cancellation was the right decision to protect the health of the athletes and the public," Placer County Public Health Officer Robert Oldham said in a statement.

"We recommended closure of schools in the Colfax and Foresthill areas based up hazardous levels of fine particulate matter in the air over the last 24 hours," he said, adding that outdoor school activities also were being suspended in Truckee, Squaw Valley and Auburn, California.

Last week, most high school football games were postponed in Reno and Sparks and students were kept inside when air quality reached the "very unhealthy" range for all populations.

While the smoke has put a damper on outdoor activities at Tahoe, the King Fire that started near Pollock Pines, California, on Sept. 13 is not expected to burn anywhere near the lake.

Officials for the Truckee Fire Protection District said they were forced to issue another statement Sunday evening to emphasize that point because of a "considerable amount of inaccurate information flowing though social media from unreliable sources."

"The King Fire poses no immediate threat to the Tahoe Truckee area at this time," the district said.

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