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August 23, 2013
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Dense smoke from Rim fire fills Valley

A fine layer of ash is dusting Carson Valley as the Rim fire continues to grow west of Yosemite National Park.

The fire is grew to 105,620 acres, according to the U.S. Forest Service update issued at 9:30 a.m.

The fire grew another 42,000 acres overnight, with containment at 2 percent.

East Fork medics are responding to smoke related calls, including difficulty breathing.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite imagery indicates dense smoke from the fire travelling into Carson Valley from the fire, which is burning 75 miles from Gardnerville as the crow flies.

An announcement about whether the concert scheduled for tonight in Minden Park will go forward is expected around lunchtime.

The playground at Main Street Preschool was silent this morning when normally 30 to 40 children would have it filled with playful laughs.

The dense smoke forced Director Lynn Cunag to keep the children inside.

“I made a judgment call. For the health of the children we are keeping them in today for indoor exercise and hands on centers. We have some kids with a lot of allergies and none with asthma, but we do it for health safety,” Cunag said. “Having them inside is a challenge because they need to move around and burn off energy, so we’ll do exercise tapes and moving centers.”

Normally, the preschoolers have outside play four times a day, and Cunag said this is the first time she has had to keep children inside due to bad air quality conditions.

“I’ve lived here 35 years, and have never seen the Valley like this,” she added.

Lasting Impressions Hair Salon owner Carlene Olsen said the smoke was all her clients talked about Thursday.

“I had a client who came in around noon, and the smoke the coming in, and by 12:30 we were socked in with the smoke,” she said. “It was bizarre. This feels like you’re sitting in a campfire.”

Douglas County School District Superintendent Lisa Noonan sent a districtwide email cancelling all outdoor activities for today.

This is the first time in her career as an administrator, she has had to develop a school protocol for smoke.

“I spent six hours yesterday on the Internet and working on guidelines from the Washoe Health Department,” Noonan said. “We’re so small of a rural area that the websites (Air Quality Index) won’t give us a reading for particulate here.”

During her research Noonan said she came up with some good guidelines for determining a smoke protocol.

“I found if visibility gets below five miles, you should restrict outdoor activity. If it’s getting thick enough you can smell the smoke, you should cut outdoor activity,” she said. “All of those things combined led to the decision to cancel outdoor activities.”

Douglas High School Principal Marty Swisher said all things that are normally conducted outside were moved indoors on Friday.

“Student safety’s first, of course, so we’re working to try to facilitate practices and meetings and things indoors,” he said. “The coaches and kids have been great. They understand that we just don’t want anybody to get sick or anything like that. So we’re working through and hopefully by the end of the weekend the smoke will be gone and everything will be back to normal.”

“It is challenging, but the coaches are trying to be as flexible as they can with each other. Volleyball’s going to come in a little bit later and football’s coming in a little bit earlier. The tennis teams, there’s not a lot they can do indoors, so they’ve cancelled, for the most part, and cross country may have run in the hallways … there have been some creative workouts. But when there’s snow at the lake, you run in the hallways. So you do whatever it takes.”

Douglas High School football coach Ernie Monfiletto said the Tigers took their football practice inside the gym on Thursday.

Monfiletto echoed what Swisher said about the smoke presenting challenges to practice scheduling.

“Like I told the kids, it’s important to overcome obstacles because they happen all the time,” he said. “You want to be able to turn a negative into a positive. This is just a good learning tool to deal with adversity.”

The Rim fire is burning east up the Sierra as more than 2,000 firefighters try to slow its progress in steep inaccessible terrain. Active fire behavior

Highway 120 west of Yosemite is closed. The community of Pine Mountain Lake is closed.

Over the next 24 hours fire officials expect the fire to continue to spread north and east toward Yosemite.


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The Record Courier Updated Aug 26, 2013 04:38PM Published Aug 27, 2013 09:34AM Copyright 2013 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.