Air quality officials continue health notice related to wildfires

RALEIGH

Air quality officials are continuing their advisory for air pollution in North Carolina on Tuesday as smoke from numerous wildfires continues to cover much of the state. Residents in the mountains, foothills and western Piedmont could experience unhealthy air quality, depending on wind directions.

Governor Pat McCrory today commended the work of more than 900 firefighters from across the country that have assembled in North Carolina to fight these dangerous fires. Thanks to their tireless efforts, several roads have reopened and the public was allowed to return to Chimney Rock Village after the pre-evacuation notice for areas Northeast, East and Southeast of the fire was cancelled.

About 16 wildfires covering more than 52,000 acres of land are burning in Western North Carolina and smoke from those fires can contain high levels of air pollution.  Residents throughout the affected areas could be exposed to Code Red (unhealthy) or Code Orange (unhealthy for sensitive groups) levels of particle pollution.

The state Division of Air Quality and the U.S. Forest Service have set up a number of special mobile air monitors throughout the region, along with permanent air monitors in Asheville, Bryson City, Hickory, Charlotte and other locations.  These monitors have measured unhealthy levels of air pollution in smoke downwind of wildfires.

For Tuesday, forecasters have predicted Code Red conditions, or unhealthy, for much of the mountains region, including the Asheville area. Code Orange conditions, or unhealthy for sensitive groups, are forecasted for much of the foothills region and parts of the western Piedmont. See the air quality forecast map for more details. Local air quality conditions can vary widely due to winds, the spread of fires and other weather factors. Residents should limit their time outside if they observe low visibility and odors due to smoke, which indicate that the air is probably unhealthy to breathe.

The forecast means everyone in Code Red areas should avoid or reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors, and sensitive groups should avoid any activity outside. Sensitive groups include the elderly, children, people who work or exercise outdoors, and those with heart conditions and respiratory ailments such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. In Code Orange areas, sensitive groups should limit their activity outdoors.

The N.C. Division of Air Quality issues daily air forecasts for the Triangle, Charlotte, Asheville, Hickory, Fayetteville and Rocky Mount metropolitan areas. In the Triad, forecasts are issued by the Forsyth County Office of Environmental Assistance and Protection. For more information, visit www.ncair.org or https://www.facebook.com/NCAQFC/. More information about particular wildfires can be found at: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/state/34/0/.

Governor McCrory announced last week that the state is offering a reward of up to $10,000 to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for setting wildfires in western North Carolina. Many of the wildfires throughout the region are believed to have been man-made.

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