Air quality officials expand health notice related to NC wildfires

- Air quality officials extended their advisory for air pollution in North Carolina to the Triangle on Friday and Saturday as smoke from numerous wildfires continues to blanket the state. Residents in the mountains, foothills and Piedmont regions could experience unhealthy air quality, depending on wind directions.

About 15 wildfires covering more than 50,000 acres of land are burning in Western North Carolina and smoke from those fires can contain high levels of air pollution.  Residents throughout the area could be exposed to Code Orange levels of particle pollution, which is unhealthy for sensitive groups.

Related: Crews from across country help battle NC wildfires

Governor Pat McCrory announced on Thursday that the state is offering a reward of up to $10,000 to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of persons responsible for setting wildfires. Many of the wildfires throughout the region are believed to be man-made.

The state Division of Air Quality and the U.S. Forest Service have set up a number of special mobile air monitors throughout the region, along with permanent air monitors in Asheville, Bryson City, Hickory, Charlotte and other locations.  These monitors have measured unhealthy levels of air pollution in smoke downwind of wildfires.

Related: McCrory declares State of Emergency over wildfires

For Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, forecasters have predicted Code Orange conditions from the mountains to the foothills and the Piedmont, including the Charlotte, Triad and Triangle metro areas. See the air quality forecast map for more details. Local air quality conditions can vary widely due to winds, the spread of fires and other weather factors. Residents should limit their time outside if they observe low visibility and odors due to smoke, which indicates that the air is probably unhealthy to breathe.

The Code Orange forecast means that sensitive groups should avoid or reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors. Sensitive groups include the elderly, children, people who work or exercise outdoors, and those with heart conditions and respiratory ailments such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema.

Related: Charlotte air quality under Code Orange due to western wildfires

A cold front moving through the state on Saturday should help reduce smoke levels by the afternoon, at least temporarily.  However, windy conditions also could cause wildfires to intensify and spread, leading to more smoke in the week ahead.

The N.C. Division of Air Quality issues daily air forecasts for the Triangle, Charlotte, Asheville, Hickory, Fayetteville and Rocky Mount metropolitan areas. In the Triad, forecasts are issued by the Forsyth County Office of Environmental Assistance and Protection.

For more information, visit www.ncair.org or https://www.facebook.com/NCAQFC/.

More information about particular wildfires can be found at: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/state/34/0/.

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