Police / Fire

Area fires affecting San Benito County

Blazes in neighboring counties have impacted regional air quality, several still at low containment.
Image courtesy of Monterey Bay Air Resources District.
Image courtesy of Monterey Bay Air Resources District.

Twenty-three major fires are burning throughout the state, with several burning around San Benito County.

Fires surrounding San Benito County include:

  • River Fire in Salinas—7% containment and 10,672 acres burned
  • Carmel Fire in Monterey County—0% containment and 742 acres burned
  • Hills Fire in Fresno County—35% containment and 1,500 acres burned
  • CZU August Lightning Complex in Santa Cruz/San Mateo—0% containment and 10,000 acres burned
  • SCU Lightning Complex in Santa Clara/Alameda/Contra Costa/San Joaquin/Stanislaus counties—5% containment and 85,000 acres burned
  • Dolan Fire in Big Sur—0% containment and 4,000 acres burned

More information is available on the Cal Fire Incident Map.

In an Aug. 19 press conference, Gov. Gavin Newsom said many of the fires around the state have been caused by lightning during this extended heat wave with dry lightning strikes. However, it has been reported on KSBW that there has been an arrest for arson related to the Dolan Fire in Big Sur.

Air quality in the region has also been affected, and San Benito County issued a health advisory earlier today. Air in San Benito County is considered to be at unhealthy levels, according to the Monterey Bay Air Resources District website. Hollister’s air is at 167 particulate matter (PM 2.5) as of 1 p.m. That is 167 particulates <2.5 microns, range of 151-200 which falls in the unhealthy category.

Possible health effects include eye irritation, redness and eyestrain, lung irritation, coughing and shortness of breath, asthma attacks or worsening of existing asthma, and respiratory allergies.

Those at highest risk include people with asthma, respiratory problems, heart problems and diabetes, infants and children, pregnant women, frail elderly, and people whose jobs require extended time outdoors.

It is recommended that residents stay indoors and close windows, especially those who are high risk. Kris Mangano, manager of the San Benito County Office of Emergency Services, said it is best not to go out if you do not need to. She added that although there have been several small vegetation fires in the county over the last few days, they are not affecting air quality.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued the following information in light of the coronavirus pandemic:

  • The best way to protect against the potentially harmful effects of wildfire smoke is to reduce your exposure to wildfire smoke, for example, by seeking cleaner air shelters and cleaner air spaces
  • Limit your outdoor exercise when it is smoky outside or choose lower-intensity activities to reduce your smoke exposure.

They also add “Keep in mind that while social distancing guidelines are in place, finding cleaner air might be harder if public facilities such as libraries, community centers, and shopping malls are closed or have limited their capacity.”


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Carmel de Bertaut

Carmel has a BA in Natural Sciences/Biodiversity Stewardship from San Jose State University and an AA in Communications Studies from West Valley Community College. She reports on science and the environment, arts and human interest pieces. Carmel has worked in the ecological and communication fields and is an avid creative writer and hiker. She has been reporting for BenitoLink since May, 2018 and covers Science and the Environment and Arts and Culture.