Bad air blankets the Valley

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- The Poco Fire burning in northeast Arizona is impacting residents of the Valley.

"When the airs this bad, it's hard to breath," said Mesa's Jan Karlbon, who suffers from severe bronchitis. 

Karlbon usually uses a machine that helps clean her lungs two times a day, but with the air full of forest fire smoke, she was tied to it four times on Wednesday. 

"This is my lifesaver," Karlbon said of another type of inhaler, which she seldom uses more than four times in a 24 hour period but relied on much more Wednesday. 

Karlbon added that the dirty air drains her energy, making her feel tired and keeping her inside.

"It's a perfect storm," said Mark Schaffer of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. 

With the Poco Fire smoke joining two types of polluting particulates and our high summer ozone levels, the ADEQ has issued a health watch for the Valley. 

While it's hoped winds blowing to the north Wednesday evening will help clear our skies, that's not good news for residents of Heber-Overgaard and Forest Lakes on the Mogollon Rim. 

They've been fighting bad air as more than 670 firefighters continue to fight the stubborn Poco Fire which started last Thursday and has chewed up more than 8,000 acres of the Tonto National Forest just north of the small timber town of Young.

For those experiencing breathing problems from both fire and pollution, health officials advise staying indoors is best, and if being outside is a must, slow down and wear a filtering mask when possible. 

Those with chronic lung problems, young children and the elderly are most at risk during this "perfect storm" of bad quality air.