Elevated fire risk levels and air quality alerts continue Wednesday in Allegany County with some schools canceling outside activities due to smoke and particles from an Eastern Canadian wildfire which are riding winds down from the north.
Haze and areas of smoke are forecast today over the entire area, with the potential for showers likely for Thursday and over the next several days.
Western and Central New York, along with New York City and Long Island are Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups again today, with Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald saying yesterday afternoon that “(g)iven the heightened air pollution levels we are seeing across much of the state, the New York State Department of Health recommends that New Yorkers limit strenuous outdoor activity to reduce the risk of adverse health effects.
“People who are especially sensitive to the effects of elevated levels of pollutants, including the very young and those with pre-existing respiratory problems such as heart disease or asthma, should avoid spending time outdoors, if possible,” he said. “Those who experience symptoms or have symptoms that worsen should consider consulting their personal physician.”
The health department and the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issue Air Quality Health Advisories when DEC meteorologists predict levels of pollution, either ozone or fine particulate matter are expected to exceed an Air Quality Index (AQI) value of 100. The AQI was created as an easy way to correlate levels of different pollutants to one scale, with a higher AQI value indicating a greater health concern officials said.
Fine Particulate Matter|
Fine particulate matter consists of tiny solid particles or liquid droplets in the air that are 2.5 microns or less in diameter, authorities report, and can be made of many different types of particles which often come from processes that involve combustion, such as vehicle exhaust, power plants, and fires, and from chemical reactions in the atmosphere.
Exposure can cause short-term health effects, they explain, such as irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and shortness of breath. Exposure to elevated levels of fine particulate matter can also worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease. People with heart or breathing problems, and children and the elderly may be particularly sensitive to Particle Matter (PM) 2.5.
When outdoor levels are elevated, going indoors may reduce exposure,, authorities note. If there are significant indoor sources of PM 2.5, such as tobacco, candle or incense smoke, or fumes from cooking, however, levels inside may not be lower than outside. Some ways to reduce exposure are to minimize outdoor and indoor sources and avoid strenuous activities in areas where fine particle concentrations are high, they note.
Elevated Fire Risk Levels
The High Fire Danger, which was first reported last week in Western and Central New York, means that all fine, dead fuels ignite readily and fires start easily from most causes, including unattended brush and campfires, according to the DEC.
“Fires may become serious and controlling them difficult unless attacked successfully while still small,” officials report.
They emphasize that although a statewide burn ban expired the middle of last month, .brush burning should only occur when absolutely necessary, with burning of garbage or leaves being prohibited year-round in New York State.
In addition, open burning is prohibited in New York, except for:
- Campfires or any other outdoor fires less than 3 feet in height and 4 feet in length, width or diameter.
- Small cooking fires.
- Ceremonial or celebratory bonfires, with disposal of flags or religious items in a small-sized fire allowed, if not otherwise prohibited by law or regulation.
- Burning of charcoal or dry, clean, untreated or unpainted wood which is allowed.
Fires cannot be left unattended and must be fully extinguished, officials note, with significant fines able to be levied for violations.
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