BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Increasing ozone levels and possible smoke impacts from lingering wildfires have prompted local air officials to declare the air basin's second Air Alert episode of 2013 Monday.
The Air Alert is effective in portions of Kern County through Wednesday.
Bakersfield residents noticed the sky was especially hazy Monday morning.
The Kern County and Bakersfield Fire Departments said they responded to a hay fire Monday. The fire departments pulled resources from the scene, allowing the fire to burn itself out under supervision of the property owner.
At 1 p.m. Monday, the air quality was in Level 3, Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups, but fell to Level 2, according to the Real-Time Outdoor Activity Risk system.
Air Alerts are declared when conditions that lead to ozone formation - increased emissions, high temperatures and stagnant air flow - materialize in the Valley.
High ozone levels are harmful to health and can trigger an annual $29 million federal penalty.
This penalty is paid by Valley drivers in the form of a $12 addition to their DMV registration fee plus increased fees on Valley businesses.
"We are at an extremely critical point in our journey to meet this standard," said Seyed Sadredin, the Air District's executive director and air pollution control officer. "As we get nearer to the end of ozone season, it becomes even more important to avoid an exceedance."
Episodes of late-summer high ozone are correlated to school traffic and increased vehicle idling, in particular.
Steps residents can take to reduce ozone levels include refraining from idling when dropping off/picking up students, carpooling, vanpooling and using alternate transportation, and refraining from using drive-through services.
Businesses and municipalities can reduce emissions by shifting operations to early morning or late evening, when ozone levels are lower, offering flexible work schedules, and promoting carpools for employees.