Tesla wants to reduce smoke exposure from wildfires for Nevada Gigafactory workers


Water crews guard a backfire during the Mosquito fire in Foresthill, an unincorporated area of ​​Placer County, California on September 13, 2022.

Josh Edelson | AFP | Getty Images

As a massive wildfire chewed through tens of thousands of acres in California last week, smoke and ash poured into nearby towns, including Sparks — home to Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory.

Tesla is taking steps to protect employees as much as possible from exposure to the smoke from the wildfire – known as the Mosquito Fire – but the company has stopped withdrawing employees.

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

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

When the 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 keep the pollution out of their homes and offices.

Nevada Gigafactory HVAC filters have been upgraded to a MERV 13 level or higher in the past year to capture particulates from wildfires. Those filters have been swapped out for new ones more often this year, Tesla told employees, and that should continue amid the smoky conditions.

Last year, too, the region was ravaged by forest fires and air pollution. Caldor Fire in California, for example, burned more than 220,000 acres in 2021, destroying homes and land, and leading to dangerous 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 causing the frequency and severity of wildfires not only in California, but around the world.”

Workers who were stationed in or frequently went outside were urged to pick up N95 masks from an office in the Gigafactory, and were also updated on air quality levels this week.

According to the CalFire website, the Mosquito Fire was 20% under control by the end of Friday, with cooler weather for the weekend expected to help firefighters put out the flames.

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