Sacramento distributing masks due to poor air quality

Specific masks are available at nearly all operational fire stations in the city


Thomas Frey - The State Hornet

Sac State cancelled its game against Northern Arizona on Saturday after the air quality index reached 218. Sac State does not allow athletic events to take place if the air quality index is recorded above 200.

Margherita Beale, news editor

As air quality spiked at “very unhealthy” levels in Sacramento county today, the city is distributing respiratory masks for residents to use.

Heavy wildfire smoke from the Camp Fire continues to affect Sacramento County air quality since it started in Butte County on Thursday. The fire has burned nearly 110,000 acres since it started and is 25 percent contained as of Sunday, according to Cal Fire.

According to Daniel Bowers, director of emergency management for the city of Sacramento, masks will be distributed at all operational fire stations in Sacramento. Station 16 will not be distributing masks as it is closed for maintenance.

The closest fire station to Sacramento State – Sacramento Fire Station 8 – is located just north of campus on H Street, and students can pick up masks starting today.

The Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District, which serves unincorporated areas of Sacramento County, has not received a supply of N95 masks, according to a tweet.  

According to a press release, the city received nearly 7,000 N95 masks from the Sacramento County Emergency Medical and Health Coordinator.

Bowers said on Monday that Sacramento had received 10,000 additional masks, including smaller masks for young adults and children, from the California Department of Public Health that morning.

A “heavy stack” of young adult masks were sent to fire stations near the Sac State campus, according to Bowers.

Bowers said that it was important to remember that the masks do have a life expectancy and that they no longer provide protection from heavy use.

Community members who go to the fire stations will be shown how to properly use the masks by a fire officer, as well as any other capabilities and limitations, Bowers said.

“You can’t just put this on and then go exercise all day and think that it’s going to give you complete protection,” Bowers said. “[They’re] not airtight sealed mask so it should not be thought of as a 100 percent safe solution.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the most effective way to protect oneself from wildfire smoke is to stay indoors or to limit time spent outdoors.

On Monday morning, Sacramento Fire Station 7 displayed a sign on its front door stating that the station had no more masks available to distribute.

Heather Lee, a Sacramento resident, said that Station 7 was the second location she visited to try and receive a mask. Lee said that amid a distribution slowdown on, other locations handing out masks, including Sacramento City College and the Sacramento Metro Fire District Station, had also run out.

Bowers added that residents looking to purchase their own masks should look out for N95 or N100 masks approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). These are masks worn by firefighters that filter and protect against the harmful, fine particles in smoke.

N95 and N100 masks can be purchased at home improvement stores and pharmacies.

According to Bowers, “run-of-the-mill” workshop paper masks will not have the same capabilities that NIOSH-approved masks have.

The Sacramento Police Department Impact Team will also distribute masks to Sacramento’s homeless population.

“We have a homeless population who are oftentimes exposed to the outdoors for prolonged periods of time,” Bowers said.

Cases of masks were also distributed to the Loaves and Fishes homeless shelter and the Union Gospel Mission, a rescue mission for the homeless.

“Homeless folks who make their way through those facilities, they will be able to get those masks and resources from them,” Bowers said.