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Wildfire smoke present but not dangerous

JAMESTOWN, N.D. - The massive wildfires in Alberta, Canada, have been sending high-altitude smoke into North Dakota, and while there is no current health concern for Jamestown-area residents, the Air Quality Division of the North Dakota Departmen...

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JAMESTOWN, N.D. - The massive wildfires in Alberta, Canada, have been sending high-altitude smoke into North Dakota, and while there is no current health concern for Jamestown-area residents, the Air Quality Division of the North Dakota Department of Health said it is monitoring the situation.

The Williston and Minot areas have been slightly affected by the smoke, said Chuck Hyatt, program manager for the ambient monitoring program of the Air Quality Division. Lung irritation is an issue with people who have chronic illnesses that could be irritated by smoke but not to the general public, he said.

“High-altitude smoke is a good indication that the wildfire season has started,” Hyatt said. “We are developing guidelines on how to handle wildfire smoke.”

The Department of Health is advising people with health conditions to monitor air quality and remain inside if a health condition worsens, Hyatt said.

A wildfire season notification page will soon be online and linked to www.ndhealth.gov/aq . The page will include a notification system for air quality warnings, and a real-time air quality map is already available online at www.ndhealth.gov/aq/Ambient.aspx .

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Common dust masks protect against large materials in smoke but will not stop someone from breathing in the fine materials that travel deep into the lungs, Hyatt said. This is in part because of single straps and poor seals to the masks, he said.

The NIOSH95 mask is considered a respirator. If it is properly fit and a good seal is made, it will do a better job of blocking harmful materials in smoke, he said. A good seal might not be possible with facial hair, he said.

For home heating ventilation and air conditioning systems a recirculating HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air filtration) system is preferable to prevent smoke from entering the home, he said. The HEPA system reprocesses indoor air.

According to the Alberta government website, a total of 25 wildfires is still burning as of Wednesday with 1,547 firefighters, 121 helicopters, 194 pieces of heavy equipment and 28 air tankers battling the flames. Approximately 56,590 acres have burned, placing more than 90,000 residents under a mandatory evacuation order.

Related Topics: FIRESHEALTHNORTH DAKOTA
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