North of San Francisco Bay, wildfires have raged across the region for more than a week. Everyone at Baykeeper sends our heartfelt sympathy to those impacted by this tragic disaster. We hope for a full and safe recovery as work continues to contain the fires and as local responders begin to assess the damage and plan for rebuilding.
Once North Bay communities are safe, Baykeeper's focus will turn to monitoring pollution impacts to the Napa River, Sonoma Creek, Carneros Creek, and parts of the Petaluma River, which all flow into northern San Francisco Bay.
While rain will bring relief to the charred region, seasonal storms could also deliver a toxic pulse of runoff to local waterways. Toxic ash from burned debris and fire-fighting material can contain harsh solvents and harmful metals like lead, copper, and chromium that pose a threat to fish, wildlife, and people. Sediment erosion into the rivers and creeks may also increase with fewer trees and plants to hold the soil in place.
It's too soon to know what the long-term environmental impacts of the North Bay fires will be. When the time comes, Baykeeper will monitor the threats and advocate for measures to minimize the pollution risks to the Bay’s watershed. For now, we’re keeping our friends, families, and supporters in the region in our thoughts.
Map courtesy of Christina Toms. Red shaded areas show the fire perimeter on October 17; blue lines represent rivers and creeks throughout the North Bay.