Water tender crews monitor a backfire during the Mosquito Fire in Foresthill, an unincorporated area in Placer County, California on September 13, 2022.
Josh Edelson | AFP | Getty Images
As a massive wildfire ripped through tens of thousands of acres in California over the past week, smoke and ash spread to nearby towns, including Sparks – home to Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada.
Tesla is taking steps to protect employees as much as possible from exposure to smoke from the wildfire – known as the Mosquito Fire – but the company has stopped being reluctant to furlough workers.
According to an internal memo shared with CNBC, Tesla informed factory employees that the building’s heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) system was set to a “recirculation mode to limit the amount of outside air drawn in. in the factory”.
Overall air quality around the Tesla facility was rated “unhealthy” to “very unhealthy” on Thursday and Friday with about 57 micrograms of fine particulate matter per cubic meter of air, according to the U.S. Quality Index air.
When the air quality is so poor, people of all ages are advised to seriously limit outdoor activities and wear a mask outside to filter out smoke and other pollutants. They are also advised to keep windows closed to prevent pollution of their homes and offices.
Nevada Gigafactory HVAC filters have been upgraded to MERV 13 or better within the last year to capture wildfire particles. Those filters have been replaced with new ones more frequently this year, Tesla told workers, and that should continue in the smoky conditions.
The region has also been plagued by forest fires and air pollution in the past year. California’s Caldor Fire, for example, burned more than 220,000 acres in 2021, destroying homes, land, and causing unsafe air quality in surrounding areas, including Nevada.
According to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), “climate change, primarily caused by the burning of fossil fuels, is increasing the frequency and severity of wildfires not only in California but also around the world.”
Workers stationed or frequently traveling to outdoor areas were asked to collect N95 masks from an office in the Gigafactory and were also kept informed of air quality levels this week.
The Mosquito Fire was 20% contained Friday night according to CalFire’s website, with cooler weather forecasts over the weekend expected to help firefighters in their efforts to douse the flames.