By the time Thomas Dailey woke up on Tuesday, smoke from the Mendocino Complex Fire had drifted 150 miles south to his pulmonary practice in Santa Clara, staining the sunrise blood red.
For many Californians, the crimson sky was another reminder of the 19 wildfires burning across the state, a larger and more destructive threat than in recent years. It could become the worst fire season in state history.
For Dailey, a pulmonologist who has treated asthma patients for 29 years, it also signaled a growing health risk for his patients and the public. As wildfires burn through forests, vegetation and homes, they expel smoke and toxic pollutants, sending fine particulate matter into the air.
“It’s pretty sobering as soon as you see that,” said Dailey, whose asthma patients at his Santa Clara office recently began complaining about tightness of breath when they go outside. “You know there’s a lot of particulates in the air.”