With thick smoke from the North Bay fires blanketing the Midpeninsula Wednesday, Palo Alto city and school groups are canceling outdoor activities to protect people's health.
As the smoke became worse mid-day, Palo Alto Unified's district nurse, Rosemarie Craig, recommended to all schools that they keep students indoors and either cancel or move after-school sports inside.
Early Wednesday evening, Craig was preparing to email a district-wide message recommending that all outdoor activities, including physical-education classes, recess and lunch, also be moved indoors on Thursday, and that any field trips -- particularly if they're outdoors -- be canceled.
Both high schools either canceled or moved inside all outdoor sports practices on Wednesday, principals confirmed.
"Teachers and students are being encouraged to stay indoors to the extent possible," Palo Alto High School Principal Kim Diorio wrote in an email. "We’re keeping windows shut, especially in the Tower Building (Paly's administrative building), which has no air circulation (because the building is so old)."
Gunn High School Principal Kathie Laurence said the school was considering canceling a field trip to Angel Island Thursday, depending on air quality there.
On Wednesday, Stanford University also canceled several sports practices, moved them to a later time or relocated indoors, according to a university announcement.
Craig urged anyone with respiratory or heart conditions to keep their medication handy and said the district is making sure teachers and staff are aware of any students who might be at risk. Students with inhalers should "keep them on hand at all times," she wrote in her message.
Craig also asked parents to be "thoughtful" about students walking and biking to school given the air quality and encouraged carpooling given that a Spare the Air alert is in effect for the Bay Area.
At Jordan, JLS and Terman middle schools, city-run cross-country and football practices were canceled Wednesday and will likely be canceled Thursday as well, according to Kristin O'Kane, Palo Alto's interim director of community services.
Adult softball games, which take place at the city's Baylands Athletic Center and El Camino Park, have also been suspended Wednesday and will probably be on Thursday, she said.
"My advice is to stay inside and not engage in physical activities," O'Kane said.
The city on Thursday closed Rinconada Pool to the public due to the wildfire smoke.
The County of Santa Clara Public Health Department is also advising residents to take precautions.
"The wildfires in the North Bay (are) causing unprecedented levels of air pollution throughout the Bay Area," Public Information Officer Joy Alexiou stated in a press release.
Children, seniors and those with respiratory problems such as asthma, COPD, emphysema and heart disease are most at risk and should limit their exposure to the smoky air by staying indoors, with windows and doors shut. Air conditioning units in homes and in cars should be set to recirculate inside air, to avoid drawing in outside air, the press statement reads.
Even residents who are not in a high-risk group should avoid outdoor activity, including exercise, the Public Health Department warned.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has issued a Spare the Air alert and a health advisory through the weekend because of smoke from multiple wildfires that continue to burn tens of thousands of acres in the North Bay.
"Outside of the active fire areas, air quality will be variable and unpredictable. Air quality may improve at times or get worse, very quickly," because of high winds, the district stated in a press release.
Parents and school administrators should check air quality readings before allowing children to practice outdoor sports, according to the air district.
For up-to-date air quality information go to sparetheair.org.
Locally, Palo Alto park rangers are advising visitors with breathing or health problems to not visit the city's parks and preserves. Anyone who sees visible flames or a clear source of smoke in the city is asked to call 911.
The county Public Health Department is also asking residents to avoid adding air pollution through activities such as wood burning, lawn mowing, leaf blowing, driving and barbecuing.
Real-time air quality readings can be found at airnow.gov.