Smoke blankets San Francisco as residents forced to don masks to breathe

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iStock/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Flames from the deadly Camp Fire won't reach California's Bay Area, but that doesn't mean it's not still wreaking havoc on the region. Smoke from the Northern California fire is leading to record-high levels of air pollution.

Masks have become the fashion statement du jour in San Francisco the past few days.

The air quality index in San Francisco rose to 258 at noon on Friday, a reading that qualifies as "very unhealthy." That reading had only sunk to 209 by 9 p.m. local time on Friday. Meanwhile, across the Bay, the air quality index in Oakland was 248 Friday night -- also in the "very unhealthy" range.

Officials warned that once the index reaches "very unhealthy," everyone is susceptible to experiencing trouble breathing or coughing. Sensitive groups, such as those with asthma, may experience even more serious issues.

Sacramento, California's capital, reached a "hazardous" level of 332 at noon on Friday.

For Chico, the region where the Camp Fire continues to burn, the air quality index was an astronomical 450 on Friday night.

The air quality in San Francisco was the worst the region has ever experienced, according to Berkeley Earth. Breathing in air outside all day on Friday was the equivalent of smoking 11 cigarettes.

San Francisco Department of Emergency Management advised people to stay indoors if possible and wear special masks designed to filter the polluted air. The California Department of Public Health shared information on specific masks to wear.

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