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Unhealthy air quality and fire risk trigger weekend closures of outdoor spaces

Weekend-long closure of The Dish, Huddart and Wunderlich parks, and Sunday closure of Windy Hill are scheduled

The Dish is closed Saturday, Nov. 10, and Sunday, Nov. 11, due to poor air quality. (Photo by Kate Bradshaw.)

Due to poor air quality expected throughout much of the Bay Area and fire danger in some areas, several outdoor open spaces in the region will be closed Nov. 10 and 11.

On Saturday, Nov. 10, and Sunday, Nov. 11, The Dish and Matadero Trail on Stanford property and Wunderlich and Huddart parks in San Mateo County are closed. Check for updates on The Dish here and the San Mateo County parks here.

Because of heavy winds expected between 10 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday, the Midpeninsula Open Space District has scheduled closures at the following open spaces on Sunday, Nov. 11:

● Lower La Honda Creek Open Space Preserve

● Mindego Hill at Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve

● Thornewood Open Space Preserve

● Windy Hill Open Space Preserve

According to the open space district website, the Woodside Fire Protection District requested that Thornewood and Windy Hill be closed because of fire weather conditions and because its resources are stretched thin fighting fires in other parts of the state. People who go to other Midpeninsula Open Space District preserves this weekend are urged to use caution and avoid parking vehicles on or over dry vegetation. Smoking and fires are prohibited. Furthermore, outdoor activity while drift smoke is in the air is "not recommended," according to the open space district.

The San Mateo County Parks Department has advised people to avoid activity in its parks through Nov. 12, or until conditions improve, and is providing free reservation changes and cancellations this weekend. Those who choose to reschedule their reservation should contact park reservation staff at (650) 363-4021 on Tuesday, Nov. 13, from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., or visit the department website. During this period no fires, including barbecues, will be allowed in the parks.

Dangers

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) has issued a Winter Spare the Air Alert through Monday because of heavy smoke and particulates drifting into the Bay Area from the Camp Fire in Butte County.

Smoke from that fire, which had scorched 70,000 acres in Northern California as of Friday morning, moved into the Bay Area from the northeast, severely impacting air quality. Data collected by an air quality station in Redwood City shows Peninsula residents are getting some of the worst of it, reaching "unhealthy" levels.

The National Weather Service has simultaneously issued a red flag warning and a frost warning for the region this weekend — fire danger is high for the Santa Cruz Mountains, the North Bay and the East Bay hills because of windy, dry conditions in the forecast, yet frost is also likely because of overnight temperatures dropping into the low 30s Saturday morning, mainly in the North Bay and southern Salinas valleys.

Other parks and open spaces

In Palo Alto, an event to celebrate the grand opening of a new 7.7-acre area of Foothills Park and the opening of the new Los Trancos and Costanoan Trails, which have been closed for the past 18 months, was set to occur as scheduled at 11:30 a.m. Saturday morning, according to park ranger Kathleen Jones. No closures within the city's park system were planned, she said Saturday morning.

Representatives from the cities of Menlo Park and Mountain View and from the Santa Clara County parks department did not provide immediate comment on scheduled park or open space closures, but none were listed on their websites as of Saturday morning.

Agencies offer health protection tips

People who do opt to go outside are advised by the Santa Clara County Public Health Department to frequently check air quality levels. Active wildfires combined with changing wind patterns makes smoke levels both variable and unpredictable. "Air quality may improve at times or get worse, very quickly," according to the department.

The public health department encouraged residents to stay indoors whenever they can see or smell smoke, and urged a cautious approach to using masks. So-called N-95 masks, while they can protect against air pollutants, can actually have adverse effects.

"Masks such as the N-95 are not effective for untrained users and may be more harmful than helpful for people with lung or heart conditions," according to the statement.

Bandanas and surgical masks do not protect against wildfire smoke particles, the statement said.

It is recommended to limit outdoor activities as much as possible. Smoke from wildfires contains chemicals, gases and fine particles that are harmful. The biggest hazard is from breathing in the fine particles, which can reduce lung function, worsen asthma and exacerbate existing heart and lung conditions, according to BAAQMD.

Kevin Forestieri, who writes for the Mountain View Voice, and the Palo Alto Weekly contributed to this report.

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