Poor air quality, rather than flames, has been the primary problem affecting academic research centers and biotechs in the San Diego area, as massive wild fires swept through the region this week, killing 20 people and destroying more than 2600 homes.

The University of California at San Diego, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, the Scripps Research Institute, and several biotechs in the area closed down for 2 to 3 days, starting Monday (October 27), due to extremely poor air quality. San Diego's mayor also requested office closures to keep roads clear and maximize fire trucks' access to affected areas. Air quality was much improved on Wednesday (October 29) because of shifting winds.

Salk Institute President Richard Murphy said that employees who did come to work—to feed and care for experimental animals, for example—had to wear face masks to protect against the visibly smoky air that circulated...

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