Smoke from North Bay fires blows into Berkeley, affecting students’ health, focus

Ana Isabel Dias/File

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The North Bay fires have created bad air quality conditions in the city of Berkeley, prompting students and community members to wear masks and remain indoors.

“The moment I left my door (Friday morning), I noticed a huge difference in air quality,” said campus senior Yaron Moaddel.

Moaddel said he had been planning on going to Friday’s home football game, but he didn’t know if he could stand the smoke for several hours. He added that he wanted to stay inside as much as possible and limit time outdoors.

For nine hours Friday, air quality in Berkeley was classified as “unhealthy” by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, or BAAQMD, and rated as “unhealthy for sensitive groups” for five additional hours.

According to Moaddel, he began wearing a face mask Friday, after realizing that the air quality was not going to get better anytime soon, though it improved to “good” by Sunday, according to the BAAQMD.

Campus freshman Caleb Kahookele said he has been wearing a mask every day when he goes outside because he has felt lightheaded since the fires began.

“Usually I just go back to the room to work instead of staying outside because I feel like it’s not as healthy (outside),” Kahookele said.

Moaddel said he has noticed a lot of people walking around campus wearing the masks and people in his classes coughing more often. Moaddel also noted that he was walking down Bancroft and heard people coughing “like crazy” and saying that they felt it in their lungs.

Vivienne Lam, a campus freshman, said her AFX dance practices were moved to indoor locations and her intramural soccer practice was canceled. Lam noted that when walking through certain parts of campus, the bad air quality was visible as a haze.

“Seeing that (the air quality) is really bad makes me uncomfortable walking around,” Lam said. “I heard it was really unhealthy.”

Campus sophomore Melissa Jaffe said she has family living in Santa Rosa who have been in and out of mandatory evacuations of their homes. Jaffe said focusing on schoolwork this past week has been challenging because of this uncertainty.

“It’s been very difficult balancing wanting to help the community up there and the schoolwork here at Berkeley,” Jaffe said.

Jaffe added that she has had trouble breathing because of the smoke in Berkeley, but he said she does not wear a mask to walk around, though she plans to wear a mask when she visits family in Santa Rosa. According to Jaffe, the fire is within a quarter-mile radius of where her family lives.

“It’s been a really stressful time for them,” Jaffe said. “The thought of them potentially losing everything is just so scary.”

Contact Ella Colbert at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @colbert_ella.