How the Smoke and Fire are Affecting those in Piedmont


Looking over Piedmont’s once picturesque view of the bay, it is easy to see the dark haze that sits on top of the Bay Area, obscuring visibility. Due to forest fires in Napa and Sonoma counties, Piedmont’s air quality has plummeted: the air quality index for the city is in the 151-200 “unhealthy for all” range for the third day in a row, impacting the lives of everyone at PHS and forcing the district to take action to ensure the health and safety of its students.

A smokey haze view of the Bay Area seen from the Mormon Temple in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2017. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

While eight school districts closer to the fire are closed, Assistant Principal Irma Muñoz said Piedmont schools will remain in session. The school turned off its air conditioning and circulation to prevent outside air from entering the classrooms and instructed teachers to close doors and windows.

The homecoming football game has been postponed, according to a district email send out Thursday afternoon. Piedmont was scheduled to play Berkeley High School at 7 p.m. on Friday evening, but now will play at 7 p.m. on Monday.

“If the air quality is not better by Monday, we’ll have to reschedule it again,” assistant Principal Eric Mapes said. “We’re not going to put people’s health in jeopardy.”

For now, the football team is sticking to indoor practices, varsity football player Lane Bentley said.

“This is something we can’t control,” Bentley said. “We just have to roll with the punches; we just keep moving.”

The smoke also affected preparations for the homecoming dance on Saturday. Muñoz said the dance location might move from the student center and the quad.

“There’s a possibility [the dance] is in one of the gyms,” Muñoz said. “Or it’s going to be outside with the tents. We’re just waiting and making a decision based on the weather.”

The smoke also put a damper on spirit week. All ASB lunchtime activities were moved indoors, according to a school-wide email sent out on Wednesday.

“Everybody in ASB is so worried about the people being impacted by the fire that suddenly the things that we were planning, that felt like a very big deal for the leadership class, are now not the first thing in our minds,” ASB advisor Mercedes Foster said.

ASB planned to distribute caramel apples on Wednesday, but could not find a way to do it outside safely.

“The class unanimously said, ‘Can we donate the food to someone else that needs it?’” Foster said. “I was really proud; they see the bigger picture.”

ASB will take over an effort to collect items to donate to fire victims that was initially started by art teacher Gillian Bailey, Foster said.  

“This is not one of those disasters that is only going to impact people for a short period of time, we’re talking about months and months,” Foster said. “We are starting collections next week and we will try to keep on top of what’s needed as time progresses.”

ASB encourages financial donations, Foster said. On Thursday she sent out a school-wide email with a message from Bailey reporting that many shelters already have everything they need. The email contained a link to a website the outlines current donation needs for fire victims. According to the email, charities are asking for monetary donations, but anything that has already been brought or will be dropped off will be delivered to shelters.

Mapes said that because of the student body, the donation collection is never something he felt he had to take a lead on.

“From what I’m hearing, the students are already thinking about it and starting to do stuff,” Mapes said. “I’ve never doubted that they would; it’s always kind of been the Piedmont way of doing things,so I would not expect anything else.”

Mapes also said he has been was personally affected by the fire.

“It’s been hard on everyone. I have friends who’ve lost their homes,” Mapes said. “My father-in-law, we’re not sure if his house, it made it through Sunday night, but we’re not sure if it made it from last night.

Mapes says he plans on taking time off from school to help his father-in-law clean up fire damage.

“We keep going,” Mapes said. “Now the big thing is how can we support our fellow Northern Californians. It’s just been a lot.”