The hazy skies have gotten worse, and burn bans are in effect.
The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality declared a Stage 1 Forecast for the Snake River Plain on Thursday afternoon due to the deteriorating air quality. Stage 1 means all open burning is banned and everyone should limit outdoor exertion. Salmon's air is especially bad, and the DEQ warns residents to limit outdoor activity. More details in the photo below (available in full-browser view, with color chart under "Related Content" at left).
As the Bridger-Teton National Forest warns of smoke exposure, urgent care centers are filling up with people complaining of common symptoms.
When you add one of the worst allergy seasons on record, doctors said it's a recipe for disaster.
The smoke is thick in many parts of eastern Idaho. Looking for the wind turbines in Idaho Falls took some serious squinting Wednesday. Viewers send us pictures of their diminished view. One person sent a picture of the Budweiser plant looking toward the foothills, but they were nowhere to be seen.
According to NASA, as of Sept. 11, more than 1.5 million acres had burned in Idaho, more than any other state in the United States, and Idahoans are feeling the effects in full force.
“(We're seeing) shortness of breathe, wheezing, that type of thing is audible from across the room along with the runny nose and watery eyes,” Dr. Corbin Brunnage said.
He could barely find five minutes for an interview as a physician's assistant at Idaho Urgent Care. On top of the normal patient load, he says, many are coming in with smoke-related problems.
“Yeah, we've been seeing all kinds of people who've been having exacerbations of obstructive lung disease or lung disease including asthma,” he said. “In addition that with early cuts of harvest, it really triggers up allergies as well. So we've been seeing quite a bit of it.”
Brunnage said the cough can be hard to shake. The smoke can also bring undiagnosed lung problems to light.
But the thick smoke isn't clearing out any time soon. So if you're not feeling well, see a doctor right away. You can also change out your heat and air filters, and as always, the best prevention is to avoid it by staying inside.
“I don't know that we wind up getting to that point, except those with severe problems and allergies, that we end up wearing masks around like everyone in Tokyo,” he said.
Brunnage said even if you're not feeling symptoms, breathing in the smoky air is not good. But it's still not as bad as breathing in a lot of carbon output and pollution you may find in bigger cities.
According to NASA, this year's wildfire season will likely break the U.S. record for most acres burned.