Unhealthy air quality forces Delta College closure

Campus among many in region to cancel classes, close doors through Monday

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Aerial shot of smoky air quality above Shima and SCMA building on Delta's campus. Photo by Catlan Nguyen.
Aerial shot of smoky air quality above Shima and SCMA building on Delta's campus. Photo by Catlan Nguyen.

On Thursday Nov. 15, at 12 p.m. Delta College cancelled classes and closed its campus until the following Monday due to lack of improvement in Stockton’s air quality.

Stockton, along with many other cities among Northern California and the Central Valley, are  blanketed in smoke from the Camp Fire burning in Butte County near the city of Chico.

Delta students and instructors were interrupted during classes and alerted to evacuate campus immediately.

This safety measure has left students in a realm concern and confusion with the idea that campus should have closed long before Thursday at noon.

“I’m glad they finally decided to send us all home since the air is so unhealthy,” said student, Bonny Barker. “I just don’t get why they would wait so long, because the air has been like this for days.”

Campus roads were swarmed with cars as everyone left at the same time, causing frustration among those stuck in the traffic.

“The dean came in and rudely interrupted my professor’s lecture like it was this huge emergency,” said Barker. “But I mean if they really cared that much they wouldn’t have made us come to school this week in the first place and all this traffic and nonsense could have been avoided.”

An alert was issued on Delta’s website home page as well as a mass email sent to ensure knowledge of campus closure until Sunday Nov. 18.

Severe, unhealthy air quality, affecting students and staff, has caused a majority of colleges and universities in the surrounding area including Chico State, U.C. Davis, Sacramento State, San Francisco State, University of the Pacific, Stanislaus State, and others to close campuses.

Chico State was one of the first to close, due to its proximity to the fire.

“It was horrible. I can literally still feel the air there,” said Fonzo Torrez, former Delta student about his experience in Chico. “When I took a deep breath, the air was so bad I could feel how thick and dirty it was in my lungs.”

Torres, a Chico State student, and was forced to evacuate his apartment and come back to Stockton to get away from the smoke.

“It’s pretty bad here. But in Chico, you seriously can’t walk outside without a mask,” said Torrez. “It was also freezing outside and even inside because there’s no sunlight from how thick the smoke is; I had to leave.”

Classes at Chico State have been canceled until Nov. 27 or until further notice.

The Camp Fire has now scorched 138,000 acres and is 35 percent contained, according to Butte County Fire Department.

At least 63 people have been found dead and 631 are reported missing among what is being called the worst wildfire in California’s history.

A Securities and Exchange report filed by California’s largest utility company, PG&E, expresses its responsibility for 17 of the 21 wildfires due to an electric safety incident.

PG&E has declared that it faces billions of dollars in potential liability, posing a threat to the major company by facing potential bankruptcy.

The state of air quality in a swath of Northern California have put people at risk of severe health issues.

An Air Quality Index, (AQI) of 300 is considered extremely hazardous.

In the last few days, Stockton’s AQI has risen to 237, making its air quality, along with much of the Sacramento area, very unhealthy.

Experts and state officials advise people to stay inside as much as possible and wear protective masks to protect themselves from further harm from the heavy smoke.