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Residents warned about triple threat of drought, fire danger, air quality


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    SAN JOSE, California (KPIX) — Santa Clara County fire officials are putting out a call to action because of the triple threat of drought, wildfires and unhealthy air.

“We are urging residents to take action now to prepare for wildfire,” said Luisa Rapport, Public Information Officer for Santa Clara County Fire.

She said fire seasons in California will be longer and hit harder than in decades past.

“Much like considering the Bay Area earthquake country, we also want our residents to consider California wildfire country,” Rapport said.

This year, low rainfall has led to low water levels in the reservoirs. It’s creating extremely dry fuels in the hills and wildlands surrounding many Bay Area neighborhoods.

“This brings us the third driest year on record in California,” said Battalion Chief Mike Mathiesen.

Along with fire danger, air quality is likely a health threat, as it was much of last year with orange, smoke-filled skies.

“The smoke that we breathe during a wildfire event is very toxic. What we see is elevated levels of asthma,” said Jack Broadbent, Executive Director of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

This year, the agency is launching a pilot program to distribute portable HEPA filters to community centers, and even small businesses during wildfire events.

“This is a long-term project to get filters into businesses and homes and community centers so people can go and escape the high levels of particulate matter that are associated with wildfires,” said Broadbent.

One Los Gatos hardware store that saw business dip during the wildfire events hopes to learn more about the new program.

“Anything we can do to make the community safer for the people who live and work here is a really good idea,” said Zack Franz, Ace Hardware Manager.

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