Smoke from wildfire leads to health advisory for SC County

Smoke from wildfire leads to health advisory for SC County

06 May 2011

published bywww.nogalesinternational.com


USA — A thick haze settled over the Santa Cruz River Valley once again on Thursday, a day after the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality issued a general smoke advisory for Santa Cruz County due to a wildfire burning approximately 15 miles south of Nogales, Sonora.

The advisory, which also includes Cochise and Pima counties, is effective through Saturday.

“ADEQ recommends that children, the elderly and those of all ages with respiratory problems avoid outdoor activities during that time period if fire smoke is affecting their areas,” the advisory said.County Health Services Director Kevin Irvine said that apart from trying to spread the word about the advisory, his office had not taken any special action.

“There’s not too much else we can do; issue the advisories and hopefully people will read them,” Irvine said.

The fire producing all the smoke is burning in the Sierra del Pinito, east of the town of Cibuta and Highway 15 in Sonora. It had scorched approximately 11,000 acres as of Wednesday, Sonoran media reported, and personnel from the Mexican National Forestry Commission (Conafor) supported by Mexican Army troops, local firefighters and volunteers were reportedly working to control it.

Smoke from the fire began drifting northward and into Santa Cruz County late in the day Tuesday, ending a nearly two-day respite from wildfire haze. The Ambos Nogales area was shrouded in smoke beginning April 28 as the binational Bull Fire burned west of town, alongside another Sonora-only blaze.

On Sunday, ADEQ issued a smoke advisory for the area north of Nogales along the Santa Cruz River basin. But then the prevailing winds shifted, crews brought the Bull Fire under control, and local skies temporarily cleared.

When the winds changed again and smoke from the Pinito fire poured north over the border, the County Health Services Department received two calls from concerned citizens and ADEQ received another, Irvine said.

“If you’re compromised, or somebody has a problem with their breathing, then they certainly need to stay indoors. But you don’t have to put a mask on – unless you want to.” Irvine said when asked about the advice his office gives to callers.We let them know that any extraordinary measures are not going to hurt, but we’re not recommending anything additional,” he said.

There had been no air quality-related health problems reported at the long-term care facility of the Corondelet Holy Cross Hospital in Nogales as of Thursday morning, said assistant administrator Dina Sanchez. But staffers were conducting all activities indoors as a precautionary measure.

“They’re avoiding taking the residents outside,” she said.

Fernando Parra, assistant superintendent at the Nogales Unified School District, said that starting Wednesday, the district had asked all its elementary schools to hold recess indoors.

It had also asked the high school to conduct physical education classes in the gym and limit spring football practice to indoor activities, such as weight training.

“We are treating this like an inclement weather issue,” Parra said.

Meanwhile in Rio Rico, Dan Fontes, superintendent of the Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District, said relatively clear skies and advice from Irvine had convinced him not to take any immediate steps.

Still, Fontes said, he was preparing to contact all principals in the district to see if there had been any incidents or concerns related to the smoke.

The Patagonia School Superintendent’s Office also reported no immediate action in response to the smoke or advisory.


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