Friday, September 21, 2012

9/21/12 Air Quality Alert & Burn Ban Stage 2 Extended

PRESS RELEASE for Immediate Release: September 21, 2012
DATE:            Friday, September 21, 2012
TIME:             10:00 a.m. PST
TO:                 Media and Reporting Fire Districts
FROM:           Hasan M. Tahat, Ph.D., Engineering and Planning Division Supervisor, YRCAA

YAKIMA- Smoky skies- Due to wildfires...the air quality remains unhealthy in Yakima County.  An Air Quality Alert has been issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) to continue through noon Monday September 24, 2012. This alert includes all Yakima County. The Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency (YRCAA)- Air Pollution Control Officer Gary Pruitt has determined that the current stage 2 burn bans will remain in effect through Wednesday September 26, 2012.  YRCAA will continue monitoring the air quality through the weekend and reevaluate the alert status and the burn ban Monday morning.
The air quality remains generally unhealthy and unhealthy for sensitive people. It is expected to remain that way through Wednesday.  Yakima County residents should use common sense precautions, but sensitive groups, such as children, the elderly and heart patients, are particularly vulnerable.

The biggest health threat comes from the fine particles in smoke. These can cause burning eyes, runny nose, bronchitis and other illnesses. Smoky air also can aggravate pre-existing heart and lung diseases, and even lead to death.

The burn ban prohibits all outdoor burning, including but not limited to:
• Campfires.
• Bonfires.
• Residential yard debris clean-up, trash disposal, land clearing, weed abatement and agricultural burning activity
• Ignition of any fireworks.

What can one do?

Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself and be informed:
-  The Washington State Department of Health recommends that people who are sensitive    to air pollution limit the time that they spend outdoors when smoke is in the air.
            -  Children also are more susceptible to smoke because:
               * Their respiratory systems are still developing.
               * They breathe more air (and air pollution) per pound of body weight than adults.
               * They're more likely to be active outdoors.
            - Pay attention to air quality reports. The Washington Air Quality Advisory (WAQA) is the tool that the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) uses to inform people about the health effects of air pollution. WAQA includes information about ground-level ozone, fine particles and carbon monoxide. WAQA is very similar to the EPA's Air Quality Index (AQI). Both use color-coded categories to show when air quality is good, moderate or unhealthy. The difference is that WAQA shows that air quality is unhealthy when there are fewer particles in the air.
            -  Use common sense. WAQA and AQI may not have immediate information on conditions in your specific area. If it looks and smells smoky outside, it's probably not a good time to go for a jog, mow the lawn or allow children to play outdoors.
            -  If you have asthma or other lung disease, follow your doctor's directions on taking medicines and following your asthma management plan. Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen.
            -  If you have heart or lung disease, if you are an older adult, or if you have children, talk with your doctor about whether and when you should leave the area. When smoke is heavy for a prolonged period of time, fine particles can build up indoors even though you may not see them.
            -  Turn air-conditioning units to "recycle" mode so they don't draw in outside air.
            -  Don't think that paper "comfort" or "dust masks" are the answer. The kinds of masks that you commonly can buy at the hardware store are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. But they generally will not protect your lungs from the fine particles in smoke.

In addition, the following websites are helpful in getting additional information:

Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency (YRCAA):
Washington Air Quality Advisory (WAQA):
Washington Smoke Information:
National Weather Service:

  • Please Note:  Restrictions may differ within the exterior boundaries of the Yakama Reservation.  The Yakama Nation is addressing air quality issues in conjunction with the EPA, under the Federal Air Rules for Reservations (FARR).  For up-to-date information there, please call 1-800-424-4EPA (1-800-424-4372) and ask for the FARR Hotline or visit the Federal Air Rules for Reservations (FARR) website for the current burn status at .

Thank you for your cooperation.

Hasan Tahat, Ph.D.
Engineering and Planning Division Supervisor
Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency

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