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Calif. smoke keeps Reno kids inside 150 miles away

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RENO, Nev. (AP) — Health officials along the Sierra’s eastern front as far north as Reno warned that the air quality is unhealthy for the general population as a smoky haze worsened from a massive wildfire at Yosemite National Park.

The air quality index pushed into the red, unhealthy zone in Reno with a peak reading of 171 at 10 a.m., Washoe County Health District officials said.

School officials canceled all outdoor activities in Carson City, Washoe and Douglas counties because of the blaze more than 150 miles away. Another 30 miles to the east, Lyon County officials urged citizens with respiratory illnesses to stay indoors.

Washoe County issued an initial orange alert Thursday for sensitive populations in the Reno-Sparks area when the index surpassed 100 and climbed as high as 133. The 150 level triggers the red alert indicating even people without respiratory conditions may be affected.

Health officials were urging everyone to reduce prolonged or heavy exertion, and said that such activities should be avoided altogether by the elderly, young and people with heart or lung disease.

“As the pollution gets worse it affects more people and the effects become more serious,” said Daniel K. Inouye, the branch chief for monitoring and planning in the district’s division of air quality management.

The California wildfire raged out of control on Friday, growing from 99 square miles to more than 165 miles as it spread inside the border of Yosemite National Park. The flames have forced the evacuations of hundreds from homes in communities near the park.

Washoe County school district spokeswoman Victoria Campbell said Friday that in addition to recess, all after-school activities outdoors had been put on hold, including football practice, but that could change if the situation improves.

Forecasters indicated that wasn’t likely until winds are expected to pick up on Sunday.

“Building high pressure may mean the area will be experiencing heavy smoke for days,” the Sierra Front Interagency Wildfire Cooperators said in a statement.

Health district officials in Reno and Carson City said they expected that through Sunday the air quality index could remain in the unhealthy range for everyone or at best yellow moderate range where sensitive populations are recommended to reduce activities.

“We’re looking for more of the same,” Inouye said Friday.

If the index tops 200, air quality is considered very unhealthy (purple) for all populations.

The last time that occurred was in 2008 when a string of lightning fires in Northern California immersed the Reno area in smoke, Inouye said.

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