State air quality officials issue health notice for McDowell and Burke Counties in western North Carolina


State air quality officials have issued an advisory for air pollution in western North Carolina on Thursday as smoke from the Dobson Knob wildfire in McDowell County continues to impact the surrounding area.

The Dobson Knob wildfire started Sunday and has grown to about 1,405 acres by Thursday morning. Smoke from fires can contain high levels of air pollution. Residents near and downwind of the fire could be exposed to Code Orange (unhealthy for sensitive groups) levels of particle pollution tomorrow. Particle pollution consists of extremely small particles that can be harmful to breathe. 

  1. winds from the northwest will become light and variable early Thursday before shifting from the southeast late Thursday. Officials predict winds will turn out of the south on Friday and then out of the southwest over the weekend. The change in winds could push smoke into Avery and Mitchell counties by Friday, and into Watauga and Caldwell counties over the weekend.

“Localized particle pollution levels may be in the Code Orange range near and downwind of the fire,” said Nick Witcraft, a meteorologist with the division. “We are expecting McDowell and western Burke counties to be the areas most impacted on Thursday.  If you are sensitive to air pollution and smell smoke, please take appropriate actions to limit outdoor exertion.”

Elevated levels of particle pollution can impair breathing and aggravate symptoms in people with respiratory problems, and irritate the lungs in healthy individuals. People with chronic lung ailments and children should reduce physical exertion and outdoor activity. More information regarding the forecasts and health effects can be found on the state Division of Air Quality’s website at

More information about the Dobson Knob fire can be found at:

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