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California fires/smoke no match for UTA Airmen

The smoke creates a contrast of color over Beale AFB. The view of the water tower shows a stark comparison to how thick the ash and smoke have become during this fire season.

The smoke creates a contrast of color over Beale AFB. The view of the water tower shows a stark comparison to how thick the ash and smoke have become during this fire season. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Denise Hauser)

Smoke fills the atmosphere as it moves in a southerly direction to cover the air space above the Air Force installation.

Smoke fills the atmosphere as it moves in a southerly direction to cover the air space above the Air Force installation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Denise Hauser)

The smoke and ash increasingly diminished visibility and tolerance to remain outdoors. Beale AFB Bio-environmental Engineering reported hourly the decrease in air quality for the personnel and residence.

The smoke and ash increasingly diminished visibility and tolerance to remain outdoors. Beale AFB Bio-environmental Engineering reported hourly the decrease in air quality for the personnel and residence. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Denise Hauser)

Northwest view of sky from the 940th ARW headquarter's building as the smoke thickens from the neighboring Elkhorn and August Complex Wildfires.

Northwest view of sky from the 940th ARW headquarter's building as the smoke thickens from the neighboring Elkhorn and August Complex Wildfires. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Denise Hauser)

Northern view of sky from the 940th ARW headquarter's building during the second week of September from multiple fires burning in the north part of the state.

Northern view of sky from the 940th ARW headquarter's building during the second week of September. Multiple fires have been burning in the north part of the state. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Denise Hauser)

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, California --

This September weekend’s unit training assembly for the 940th Air Refueling Wing was successfully accomplished for the most part by its Reserve Citizen Airmen’s efficiency at teleworking.

The reason for the abrupt change in plans for this month’s UTA was easy to see why, but not to see through. The massive burning fires had created a thick quilt of smoke resulting in the Air Quality Index to rise above a reading of 500 plus.  A normal AQI is 40-45.

 This extremely high rating is deemed hazardous to humans exposed to such poor breathing conditions. Some health effects directly related are serious aggravation of heart and lung disease, detrimental outcomes for elderly persons and possible serious risks of respiratory affects for the general population.

Beale Air Force Base geographically sits on 23,000 acres of rolling hills in northern California at an elevation of 197 feet. The towns of Linda, Marysville and Yuba City border the eastern side of the base and the installation itself is about 40 miles northeast of the city of Sacramento.

Currently, the skies over the base and surrounding areas continued to be blanketed with the heavy gray ash mixture. From the northwest, the Elkhorn and the August Complex Wildfires had already consumed 255,309 and 740,000 acres respectively. The August Complex, formerly the Doe fire, was initially 37 separate fires that began burning in August due to dry lightning strikes.

Additionally, northeast of the base, the North Complex Bear fire was also active and growing in size to a record 252,314 acres by Saturday morning. The second North Complex Sheep fire a short distance northeast of Bear fire reportedly destroyed 29,570 acres that continues to smolder.

Many of the 940th ARW Airmen live in the surrounding communities and the outlining areas of the foothills and wooded areas of the state. Travel on roads to many of these towns can easily become dangerous due to decreased visibility due to smoke.

Safety is another top concern for the wing’s Airmen and wildfires are part of the California landscape.

The wing recently implemented and took actions to prepare its Airmen for telework. Training, a signed DD Form 2946 and an Alternative Work Agreement in hand has been in place for emergency situations with encouraging readiness and maintaining a telework-ready workforce for unforeseeable circumstances such as wildfires. It is a winning outcome.

The positive decision-making action the Air Force Reserve Command and the command’s leadership have is the foresight to opt in and move forward with the implementation of telework as a viable option.

Telework has quickly become a popular and productive arrangement between supervisors, Airmen and civilians included. The organization can continue to be operational and preform with confidence; assigned tasks and mission responsibilities are being completed on time with no question and this fact has never been more so than in this year of 2020.

The entire population and personnel of Beale AFB have definitely been coping with the smoke, ash and air quality over the last three weeks. It is a positive step for the wing that Airmen and staff of the 940th ARW have plenty of masks to be reserve ready and the technical mobility to telework smartly.