Fire crews monitor backfire during the Mosquito Fire in Forest Hill, unincorporated Placer County, California, on September 13, 2022.

Josh Edelson | AFP | Getty Images

As a massive wildfire burned tens of thousands of acres in California last week, smoke and ash drifted into nearby cities, including Sparks, home of Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada.

Tesla is taking steps to protect its employees as much as possible from the effects of smoke from the wildfire known as the Mosquito Fire, but the company has not been shy about laying off workers.

According to an internal memo provided to CNBC, Tesla informed facility staff that the building’s heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system was set to “recirculate mode to limit the amount of outside air entering the plant.”

Overall air quality around the Tesla facility was rated as “unhealthy” to “very unhealthy” on Thursday and Friday with about 57 micrograms of fine particulate matter per cubic meter of air, according to the US Air Quality Index.

When air quality is this bad, people of all ages are advised to severely 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 from entering their homes and offices.

Over the past year, Nevada Gigafactory HVAC filters have been upgraded to MERV 13 or higher to capture wildfire particulates. Those filters have been replaced more frequently this year, Tesla told workers, and that should continue amid the smog.

Last year, the region also suffered from forest fires and air pollution. For example, California’s Caldera Fire burned more than 220,000 hectares in 2021, destroying homes, land and worsening 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 around the world.”

Workers who work in or frequently travel to outdoor areas have been strongly encouraged to pick up N95 masks from their office at the Gigafactory, and have also been kept abreast of air quality levels this week.

According to CalFire’s website, the Mosquito fire was 20% contained as of late Friday, and colder weather is forecast for the weekend, which is expected to aid firefighters in their efforts to contain the flames.

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