Smoke from several wildfires in the northwest, including Montana and surrounding states, is causing issues in western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming.
Although the smoke has been visible for days, it became more dense and widespread this weekend.
On Saturday, the smoke caused an hour long delay at the Old West Balloon Fest sunrise launch because of reduced visibility.
After lessening overnight, the smoke blew back in Sunday afternoon.
Visibilities dropped below two miles at times in many locations, and it was causing air quality concerns.
The smoke was causing the air to be labeled “unhealthy,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency. At that level, “Everyone may begin to experience health effects and members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.”
According to the EPA, the biggest health threat from smoke is from fine particles. These microscopic particles can get into your eyes and respiratory system, where they can cause health problems such as burning eyes, runny nose, and illnesses such as bronchitis.
If you are healthy, you’re usually not at a major risk from short-term exposures to smoke. Still, it’s a good idea to avoid breathing smoke if you can help it.
- Use common sense. If it looks smoky outside, it’s probably not a good time to mow the lawn or go for a run. And it’s probably not a good time for your children to play outdoors.
- Pay attention to local air quality reports. Stay alert to smoke-related news coverage or health warnings.
- Visit AirNow.gov to find out the Air Quality Index in your area. As smoke gets worse, the amount of particles in the air changes – and so do the steps you should take to protect yourself. AirNow recommends precautions you can take to protect your health when air pollution gets bad.
- If you are advised to stay indoors, take steps to keep indoor air as clean as possible. When smoke levels are high, try to avoid using anything that burns, such as wood fireplaces, gas logs, gas stoves – and even candles! Don’t vacuum. That stirs up particles already inside your home. And don’t smoke. That puts even more pollution in your lungs, and in the lungs of people around you.
- If you have asthma or other lung disease, make sure you follow your doctor’s directions about taking your medicines and following your asthma management plan. Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen.
- Run your air conditioner if you have one. Keep the fresh air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent bringing additional smoke inside. Note: If you don’t have an air conditioner, staying inside with the windows closed may be dangerous in extremely hot weather. In these cases, seek alternative shelter.
- If you have heart or lung disease, if you are an older adult, or if you have children, talk with your doctor about whether and when you should leave the area. When smoke is heavy for a prolonged period of time, fine particles can build up indoors, even though you may not be able to see them.
The National Weather Service said that the smoke conditions should begin to improve by Monday morning.