State News

Wildfire creates unhealthy air in 9 eastern counties

Posted July 2, 2008 4:01 a.m. EDT
Updated July 2, 2008 5:24 p.m. EDT

— Two wildfires are creating unhealthy air in nine coastal counties in North Carolina.

The state Division of Air Quality predicts Code Red or Code Purple conditions in the counties because of smoke from a wildfire in the Great Dismal Swamp and one in the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.

The poor air quality is forecast for Wednesday in all or part of these counties: Camden, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hyde, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell and Washington.

The forecast means people who are sensitive to air pollution should avoid all physical activity outdoors. Sensitive groups include older adults and children; people with heart conditions and respiratory ailments such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema; and people who work or exercise outdoors.

Everyone else should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.

Unhealthy air

In the map below, the red are indicates the fire zone, where more than 40,000 acres continue to burn deep into the ground. Red markers denote areas of worst air pollution. Yellow markers indicate areas where air is dangerous to sensitive groups – the very young or very old, and those with chronic lung diseases.

Protect yourself from wildfire smoke

  • Reduce time outdoors. This can provide protection, especially in a tightly closed house where the air-conditioner can re-circulate air instead of bringing in outdoor air.
  • Reduce time engaged in outdoor physical activity. This can be effective in lowering the dose of inhaled air pollutants.
  • Reduce other sources of indoor air pollution that can emit the same pollutants found in wildfire smoke. Indoor sources such as burning cigarettes, gas, propane and wood-burning stoves and furnaces, and activities such as cooking, burning candles and incense and vacuuming can greatly increase the particle levels in a home and should be avoided when wildfire smoke is present.

(Source: National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion)

The state Division of Public Health lists the symptoms of smoke exposure as:

  •   coughing
  •   scratchy throat
  •   shortness of breath
  •   irritated sinuses
  •   chest pain
  •   headaches
  •   stinging eyes
  •   runny nose

You can help

North Carolina Baptist Men Disaster Relief is providing showers, laundry services and food to firefighters in Hyde County. To donate to the relief effort, send a check to: NCBM Disaster Relief, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512.