Posted: Jun 19, 2012 By: Wade Kartchner,M.D.
Navajo County Public Health Services District, AZ — Dr. Wade Kartchner, Director of Navajo County Public Health Services District, has been monitoring air quality in Navajo County due to smoke in the area resulting from the Poco Fire burning in the nearby Tonto National Forest. With an anticipated shift in wind direction, heavy smoke will blanket much of northeastern Arizona over the next few days. To enhance monitoring of this situation, Dr. Kartchner has requested a portable air quality monitoring device to be stationed in the community of Heber/Overgaard. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality will provide this equipment with camera imaging which is expected to be online by this evening. This device will provide hourly air quality readings.
The principal public health threat from short-term exposure to wild fire smoke is from exposure to particulate matter. Exposure to high concentrations of particulate matter can cause persistent cough, phlegm, wheezing, difficulty breathing, bronchitis, asthma flare up, and eye and respiratory tract irritation. Not everyone who is exposed to thick smoke will have health problems. The level and duration of exposure, age, individual susceptibility—including the presence or absence of pre-existing lung or heart disease and other factors—play significant roles in determining whether or not someone will experience smoke-related health problems. The following are individuals who may experience difficulties from exposure to wild fire smoke or who may be concerned with exposure:
- Individuals with asthma and other respiratory diseases
- Individuals with cardiovascular disease
- The elderly
- Pregnant women
Itchy eyes, cough, and upper airway irritation are typical symptoms of short-term exposure to smoke. Other potential health effects could include headache, dizziness and nausea.
Closing windows and turning off evaporative coolers when smoke is present should reduce exposure to the smoke and should be adequate to protect people without respiratory problems.
People living in the area with pre-existing conditions such as asthma or other respiratory problems are at the highest risk for health symptoms and should avoid exposure to the smoke as much as possible and consult their physician if they have any questions.
What to do if there is smoke present:
- Stay inside with windows and doors shut.
- Use the recycle or re-circulate mode on the air conditioner in your home or car.
- Avoid cooking and vacuuming, which can increase pollutants indoors.
- Avoid physical exertion.
- Asthmatics should follow their asthma management plan.
- Keep airways moist by drinking lots of water. Breathing through a warm, wet washcloth can also help relieve dryness.
Navajo County Director of Emergency Management, Dan Hinz, received notification that the Poco Fire in the Tonto National Forest, burning 6 miles northeast of Young, Arizona, started on Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 2:30pm. The fire has burned more than 3,700 acres and is 15% contained at this time. Under the direction of the Northern Arizona Incident Management Team, the fire has more than 700 personnel assigned to it.
Navajo County Emergency Management and Public Health Services District will continue to monitor this event and provide updates.