Tesla Nevada Gigafactory lowers exposure to mosquito smoke

Water tender crews monitor backfires during a mosquito fire in Foresthill, an unincorporated area of ​​Placer County, California on September 13, 2022.

Josh Adelson | AFP | Getty Images

With a massive wildfire burning tens of thousands of acres in California over the past week, smoke and ash billowed in nearby towns including Sparks – home to the Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada.

Tesla is taking steps to protect employees from exposure to bushfire smoke — known as Mosquito Fire — as much as possible, but the company has stopped furloughing workers.

According to an internal memo shared with CNBC, Tesla informed employees at the facility that the building’s heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) system has been set to “recycle mode to limit the amount of outside air drawn into the plant.”

Air quality overall around the Tesla facility was rated “unhealthy” to “extremely 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 the air quality is poor, people of all ages are advised to seriously limit outdoor activities, and to wear a mask outside to filter smoke and other pollutants. It is also advised to keep windows closed to prevent contamination from their homes and offices.

Nevada Gigafactory HVAC filters have been upgraded to MERV level 13 or higher over the past year to capture wildfire particles. Tesla told workers that these filters have been replaced with new ones on a more frequent basis this year, and should continue to do so under smoky conditions.

The area was plagued by bushfires and air pollution last year, too. For example, California’s Kaldor Fire burned more than 220,000 acres in 2021, destroying homes and land and resulting in hazardous air quality in surrounding areas including Nevada.

According to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), “Climate change, caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuels, is increasing the frequency and intensity of wildfires not only in California but also around the world.”

Workers stationed in or frequent outdoors were urged to pick up N95 masks at an office in the Gigafactory, and were kept informed of air quality levels this week as well.

The mosquito fire was 20% contained as of late Friday according to the CalFire website, with colder weather forecast over the weekend that was expected to aid firefighters in their efforts to put out the flames.

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