Wildfire Smoke Begins Impacting Air Quality

Smoke from several Idaho wildfires is impacting air quality for residents of southern and central Idaho.

Smoke from the 10,000 acre Pioneer Fire north of Idaho City, is causing intermittent levels of “Unhealthy” to “Very Unhealthy” air for Idaho City and nearby communities, with smoke drifting down into the Treasure and Magic Valleys causing air quality in the “Moderate” category. The Comet Fire north of Salmon also is producing air quality in the “Moderate” category for Salmon area residents.

Older adults, infants, children and people with medical conditions such as asthma, lung disease, and heart disease are more sensitive to poor air quality and may want to take precautions when air quality is moderate or worse. People who use inhalers for asthma or other conditions should keep them close at hand. Everyone is advised to seek medical treatment for uncontrolled coughing, wheezing, choking, or if breathing difficulties continues after they move indoors.

To reduce exposure to smoke to protect people’s health, public health officials advise:

  • Older adults, small children, and those with respiratory conditions or heart disease may be more sensitive to poor air quality and should stay indoors and avoid heavy work when air quality reaches the unhealthy for sensitive groups
  • Everyone should avoid heavy work or exercise outdoors when the air quality index reaches unhealthy levels.
  • Visibility can help determine air quality if there is no monitor in your area. If visibility is reduced to less than five miles, sensitive groups should limit activity. If visibility is reduced to less than three miles, air quality is considered unhealthy for everyone. Visibility of less than one mile is considered hazardous and everyone should avoid all physical activity outdoors.
  • Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Staying hydrated helps dilute phlegm in the respiratory tract, making it easier to cough out smoke particles. Plan to cough; it is nature’s way of clearing your lungs. Avoid caffeine products, sugary drinks and alcohol because they have a dehydrating effect.
  • Stay cool if the weather is warm. Run your air conditioner to re-circulate air. Turn the fan blower to manual so it continuously filters the air in your home.
  • For homes without a central heating and/or cooling system, use portable air purifiers to remove particles (air purifiers that utilize HEPA filters are best; avoid using air purifiers that produce ozone). Visit places in your community that have air conditioning, such as a library.
  • If you wear contact lenses, switch to eyeglasses in a smoky environment.

Daily updates on air quality conditions at various locations in Idaho are available on the Department of Environmental Quality’s Air Quality Reports and Forecasts webpage. For areas where air quality monitors are not available, the Visibility Range and AQI Table can help determine the necessary precautions to take. For more complete information about wildfires in your area visit the Idaho Smoke Information Blog

 

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