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Smoke From Fires Prompts Air Quality Alert

An air quality alert was expected to remain in place through this morning due to drifting smoke from wildfires. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

An air quality alert was expected to remain in place for Western New York through this morning due to drifting smoke from wildfires in Canada and the western portion of the United States.

The air quality health advisory came from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

“When pollution levels are elevated, the New York State Department of Health recommends that individuals consider limiting strenuous outdoor physical activity to reduce the risk of adverse health effects,” the National Weather Service noted. “People who may be especially sensitive to the effects of elevated levels of pollutants include the very young and those with pre existing respiratory problems such as asthma or heart disease. Those with symptoms should consider consulting their personal physician.”

The 569-square-mile Bootleg Fire in Oregon is burning 300 miles southeast of Portland in and around the Fremont-Winema National Forest, a vast expanse of old-growth forest, lakes and wildlife refuges.

Evacuations and property losses have been minimal compared with much smaller blazes in densely populated areas of California.

The Bootleg Fire was one of many fires burning in a dozen states, most of them in the U.S. West.

Sixteen large uncontained fires burned in Oregon and Washington state alone on Monday.

Extremely dry conditions and heat waves tied to climate change have made wildfires harder to fight. Climate change has made the west much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.

In nearby Warren County, there was noticeable haze on Tuesday.

“The hazy look to the day today is from the wildfire smoke,” meteorologist Steve Travis said. “The winds are coming out of those areas bringing the smoke to our neck of the woods.”

The smoke is lower in the atmosphere than usual, he said. Along with the smoke are air quality alerts for large areas of Pennsylvania.

Those with respiratory issues are advised to take extra caution while the air remains hazy. “It can cause trouble for people with asthma and other lung problems,” Travis said.

“Limit strenuous activity outside, particularly if you have asthma and if the smoke is making its way down lower.”

Brian Ferry in Warren and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

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