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UPDATE: Smoke from Minnesota Wildfire Triggers Air Quality Alert in Darien Area

People with respiratory conditions are advised to stay indoors.

Smoke from the prompted the U.S. EPA to issue an orange air quality alert Wednesday for the whole Chicago area.

Though the wildfires themselves are more than 400 miles from Darien, they’ve created higher-than-normal levels of fine particulate matter in the air, the EPA said.

The air quality rating has since been lowered to yellow — or moderate — after starting the day at orange. People with high sensitivity to poor air quality should avoid activities that will make them breath heavily outside. The forecast for the rest of the day remains at orange.

The smoke, which drifted into the area Tuesday, is expected to stick around through at least the rest of the day, the EPA said.

The 100,000-acre fire began Aug. 18 in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northeast Minnesota as a result of a lightning strike, according to InciWeb.org, which is tracking the fire. As of Wednesday morning, the fire had spread about one mile beyond the border of the BWCAW.

The EPA offered these tips for breathing easy amid the smoke:

  • 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.
  • If you are advised to stay indoors, take steps to keep indoor air as clean as possible. Keep your windows and doors closed.
  • Run your air conditioner, if you have one. Keep the fresh air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent bringing additional smoke inside.
  • Help keep particle levels inside lower. When smoke levels are high, try to avoid using anything that burns, such as wood fireplaces, gas logs, gas stoves - and even candles. Avoid vacuuming as it stirs up particles already inside your home. Do not smoke, as it puts 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.

For additional information on smoke from forest fires, visit www.airnow.gov. For other ways to reduce contributions to air pollution, visit www.cleantheair.org.

Source: U.S. EPA

Don Damon September 14, 2011 at 07:59 PM
Actually, by noon today the alert was removed and the level dropped back to yellow (less than orange). The EPA forecast was for orange all day ... but the passing of the front and the light rain cleaned things up a bit. A more up-to-date condition report is available at: http://airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=airnow.local_city&cityid=50 Click "Current AQI" (or "AQI Animation" if you want to see the progression of the cleaner air through the area).
Lauren Williamson (Editor) September 14, 2011 at 08:21 PM
Thanks, Don, I'll update the story!

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