Wallow Fire causing poor air quality, potential breathing concerns

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PHOENIX - Hazardous smoke conditions continue to exist for multiple communities in eastern Arizona as the Wallow Fire continues to burn.

The ADEQ monitor in Springerville reports air quality as hazardous. 

"That smoke looks horrible, they need to be very cautious," said Margaret Rosenkrans, a respiratory therapist at Banner Desert Hospital. "I would be wearing a mask, I would have my windows closed, not be recirculating the air in my car if I'm driving, and I would make sure my medications are up to date, that I have enough and ready to go."

People with heart or lung disease, older adults and children should remain indoors and keep activity levels low. Those suffering from respiratory problems are encouraged to leave the area for now as long as it is safe to do so.

Symptoms of respiratory problems related to the smoke include tight lungs, trouble breathing and wheeziness. Everyone reacts differently to poor air quality so it is good to take steps to prevent breathing troubles.

"If they have breathing problems or even if they don't, with that smoke so thick I would try to stay indoors or use a mask outside," said Margaret Rosenkrans, a respiratory therapist at Banner Desert Hospital. "And if anyone has medications for breathing problems make sure they are up to date and just use common sense."

If you experience respiratory problems you need to be aware of what's going on and take precautions.

Treatments include breathing machines, inhalers or if you have an infection antibiotics would be necessary.

Officials remain concerned about low humidity and high winds, which continue to feed the flames, scatter embers and spread smoke throughout the area. While air-attack equipment is on site, strong wind gusts and thick smoke are hindering their use at times.

The Associated Press reported, smoke from the Wallow Fire has spread as far away as 1,000 miles from the blaze.

Kyle Fredin, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Denver, told the AP Monday that a ridge of high pressure was carrying the smoke as far away as central Iowa. He said the smoke was also hitting eastern Colorado -- where it obscured the view of the mountains from downtown Denver -- as well as New Mexico, Nebraska and Kansas.
Residents affected by the fire are going to be dealing with poor air quality for a while, even when they return to their homes, as ash and other particulates will be left over from the large forest fire.

Residents are urged to review this information from the Arizona Office of Environmental Health:  Wildfire Smoke and your Health.

State health officials have issued a smoke health advisory through noon Tuesday. They say if visibility is less than five miles or the smoke becomes thick, it may have reached unhealthy levels.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)