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Smoke from the Bobcat Fire Impacting Campus

September 11, 2020

To: The Campus Community
From: Jennifer Howes, Executive Director of Student Wellness Services
Date: September 11, 2020
Re: Smoke from the Bobcat Fire impacting campus

Smoke from the Bobcat Fire continues to affect the air quality across Los Angeles County, including Caltech's campus.

The LA County Department of Public Health has advised that the air quality in the San Gabriel Valley is unhealthy for sensitive individuals, and recommends that individuals who live or work in the area minimize outdoor activity. A map showing the impact of smoke from the fire on air quality throughout the region can be found on the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) website.

Caltech athletics facilities are closed for the time being. Daily operating decisions will be made at 7 a.m. each day going forward, and members with appointments that day will be notified by email before 8 a.m. Please continue to make your appointments per the new procedure. In addition, the Athenaeum has closed the Rath al Fresco for the evening of September 11.

Campus managers and supervisors have been asked to work directly with employees, especially those individuals who work primarily outdoors, to limit or prohibit their work outdoors. The Institute will continue to actively monitor air quality forecasts and decisions on operations will prioritize employees' health and well-being. Any changes in employees schedules or working arrangements will be communicated by an individual's supervisor. Individuals on campus should discuss any questions or concerns they have with their supervisors.

Caltech Facilities has installed charcoal filters in as many buildings as possible to help improve indoor air quality related to smoke odors. Buildings that house critical operations that require human, in-person support for maintenance and operations were prioritized for installation of the existing filters. As more filters become available, they will be installed in other buildings on campus.

Graduate students in residence should keep their windows closed and use air conditioners to help recirculate and filter air. Students on campus who have any health concerns related to smoke or are experiencing any difficulty breathing should call Student Wellness Services at (626) 395-6393. Please do not come to the Student Wellness Services building unless you are directed to do so. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call Campus Security at (626) 395-5000. Faculty and staff should contact their health care providers with any medical concerns they are experiencing. 

In a year when we are already facing the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognize that California's wildfires represent yet another strain on us individually and as a community. Please remember to take care of your mental health as well as your physical health. Members of the community are encouraged to access resources for support and assistance in getting through this difficult time; students can connect with professionals in Student Wellness Services; faculty and staff have access to the Staff and Faculty Consultation Center (SFCC).