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Butte County fire impacts local schools

Outdoor activities canceled due to unhealthy air quality

A Menlo-Atherton High School playoff football game and other local school activities were postponed or canceled Friday due to poor air quality from the wildfire burning in Butte County.

The fire, which started on Thursday, Nov. 8, has burned 70,000 acres and resulted in five deaths, according to Cal Fire and the Butte County Sheriff's Office. Smoke from the fire is billowing into the Bay Area, making the air quality unhealthy, according to AirNow.gov, an air quality data website.

Under unhealthy air conditions, people with heart or lung disease, older adults, children and teens are advised to reduce exposure by avoiding strenuous outdoor activities, keep outdoor activities short and consider moving physical activities indoors or rescheduling them, according to the site.

Officials moved M-A’s Central Coast Section (CCS) football playoff game, originally scheduled for Friday against Milpitas High School, to Monday, Nov. 12, at 5 p.m. because of the air quality.

The CCS cross country championships, originally scheduled for Saturday at Crystal Springs, have also been moved to Monday.

M-A officials also moved outdoor activities indoors for the day, according to an email to community members on Friday. The school had indoor spaces open for students during lunchtime and all physical education classes were moved inside.

Throughout the Sequoia Union High School District, all outdoor activities were held indoors during the school day, according to district spokeswoman Ana Maria Pulido.

"We are closely monitoring the current air quality for the Bay Area to make any necessary changes to after school activities, including athletic practices and contests," she wrote in an email.

Menlo Park City School District physical education classes were also held inside. Although air quality was technically good enough for students to eat outside, the “smell is a bit overwhelming,” Superintendent Erik Burmeister wrote in an email to community members Friday morning. Principals planned to keep students inside for lunch but could allow them to go outside should the air quality improve, he wrote.

He also told parents that if they have children with asthma or other breathing sensitivities, they should tell their kids to stay inside on Friday.

Coaches for a Hillview Middle School after-school running program canceled their race at Huddart Park Friday because of the air quality, according to an email to parents.

“It would just not be healthy for any of the kids to be out running with the current air quality,” coach Stella Bergan wrote. “Such a bummer as I love getting the kids out to race in Huddart.”

The Portola Valley Elementary School District canceled all outdoor activities on Friday, according to an email to parents. District officials closed classroom windows and exterior doors and asked parents to alert teachers if their child had health issues, Superintendent Eric Hartwig wrote in the email.

Those less affected by the air quality should also choose less strenuous activities, shorten outdoor activity and be active when air quality is better, according to AirNow.gov.

San Mateo County officials have urged people to stay indoors when possible while the air quality is poor. In a press release Friday afternoon, the county's Parks Department advised visitors to "refrain from active use" in its parks because of the unhealthy air quality. The parks department advisory is in effect from Nov. 9 to 12 or until conditions improve.

The county also encourages residents to sign up for emergency notifications here.

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