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Heavy smoke bothers Sacramento residents as several wildfires burn

August 15, 2012 |  8:30 am

As wildfires continued to burn in Northern California on Wednesday, residents in the Sacramento area complained of hot temperatures and heavy smoke blanketing the region.

Area hospitals reported only a handful of patients treated for respiratory problems, the Sacramento Bee reported, but the area was under another "Spare the Air" day — a warning issued by the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District encouraging residents to stay inside and drive as little as possible.

Many day care centers have kept children inside and some area schools have moved sports practices to the morning hours to avoid the smoke, the newspaper said.

"I had to shut my patio door and bedroom window because I felt my eyes and nose burning," Sacramento resident Joe Pacheco, 79, told the Bee. "That helped some, but it warmed the room up, and I had to open the window again."

Niki Kangas told the newspaper she kept her windows open because the air-conditioning in her Oak Park home was broken. Her 4-year-old and 6-year-old were up all night because of the smoke, she said.

"My little boys kept waking up and coughing and crawling into my bed," the 30-year-old said. "I was so nervous. I was up all night Googling 'smoke inhalation illness' to see if I needed to take them to the hospital."

The smoke comes from fires scattered throughout the region.

About 60 miles northwest of Sacramento in Lake and Colusa counties, the Wye and Walker fires have scorched a combined 7,000 acres since Sunday afternoon. They were 60% contained by Tuesday afternoon.

About 70 miles southeast of the capital city, Calaveras County's Ramsey fire has grown to about 1,250 acres with 10% containment as of Wednesday morning. And 100 miles northeast, the Chips fire — burning since July 29 — charred nearly 35,000 acres and was 20% contained Tuesday.

Forecasters told the Bee that, despite the fires, they hadn't anticipated the heavy smoke blanketing Sacramento.

"We were not expecting this at all," Tom Dang of the National Weather Service said Tuesday. "The extent and coverage we saw this morning were quite impressive."

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-- Kate Mather

Follow Kate Mather on Twitter or Google+.

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