Bighorn Basin Under (Another) Air Quality Alert
Written by Andrew-Rossi on August 10, 2021
The Bighorn Basin is under an Air Quality Alert until Tuesday afternoon due to persistent wildfire smoke in the air above western and central Wyoming.
The National Weather Service Office in Riverton has issued an Air Quality Alert for western and central Wyoming. Issued at 11:52 a.m. Monday morning, the alert will remain in effect until 1 p.m. on Tuesday, August 10. The entire Bighorn Basin is included under the alert.
Included in the Airt Quality Alert is a message from the Wyoming Department of Health.
The Wyoming Department of Health recommends that the elderly, young children, and individuals with respiratory problems avoid excessive physical exertion and minimize outdoor activities during this time. Wildfire smoke is made up of various pollutants, including particulate matter and ozone, which can cause respiratory health effects. Although these people are most susceptible to health impacts, the Department of Health also advises that everyone avoid prolonged exposure to poor air quality conditions.
Both Yellowstone National Park and the Cody foothills are included in the target area for the Air Quality Alert, as is most of the Bighorn Basin.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, smoke is a complex mixture of gases and fine particles produced when wood and other organic materials burn. These fine particles are the biggest health threat, as they can easily penetrate deep into the lungs.
If you experience any of these symptoms, you may be experiencing a smoke-related health complication:
- Anyone may experience burning eyes, a runny nose, cough, phlegm, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.
- If you have heart or lung disease, smoke may make existing symptoms worse
- People with heart disease might experience chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath, or fatigue.
- People with lung disease may not be able to breathe as deeply or as vigorously as usual. As a result, they may experience coughing, phlegm, chest discomfort, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
During an Air Quality Alert, the most at-risk populations are children (including teenagers,) the elderly, pregnant women, and anyone with diabetes and heart or lung diseases.
The E.P.A. recommends everyone be aware of and follow local air quality reports for their own health and safety.
As for where the smoke is coming from . . . it’s hard to tell. Several large wildfires are burning in the United States and Canada. Some, like the still-burning Bootleg Fire in Oregon, have previously cover Wyoming in smoke.
Due to the increased frequency of wildfires in Summer 2021, the U.S. Forest Service moved to Preparedness Level 5 – the highest possible. Unfortunately, this means that many fires may receive less attention as resources and personnel are stretched.