UPDATE (5/22 – 11 am): The air quality in Anchorage and Eagle River is considered unhealthy for everyone according to the municipality’s Department of Health and Human Services due to smoke from wildfires near Tyonek and Funny River on the Kenai Peninsula. However, the air quality hotline reports that conditions are improving.
The department advises that all people stay indoors if possible and avoid strenuous exercise. They recommend keeping windows closed and avoiding burning things like candles and cigarettes. Vacuuming can also stir up particles and reduce air quality.
The department adds that typical dust masks or surgical masks won’t help to keep out the smoke. You would need a special mask marked “N95.” They can be purchased in some hardware stores.
The hotline number is 343-4899. They will provide another update by noon.
Smoke is expected through the holiday weekend.
ORIGINAL STORY: Smoke from the wildfire in Tyonek blew into parts of Anchorage Wednesday morning causing concerns about air quality. By mid-afternoon most of the smoke had cleared, but it could be back.
Matt Stichick with the Anchorage Air Quality program said some smoke could blow in Thursday morning, but winds from the north will reduce the impact. However, with fires burning in Tyonek and at Funny River Road on the Kenai Peninsula, he said the problem is not resolved yet.
“Certainly we’re not in the clear yet,” he explained. “And actually there’s a much better chance that smoke from the Kenai Peninsula will be reaching Anchorage by Memorial Day weekend. It sounds like this situation could be with us for a while yet.”
Stichick said the best way to judge if the air near you is hazardous is to measure the visibility. If you can’t see a point that you know to be about 3 to 5 miles away, then you need to be careful. He said people who have heart or lung problems should avoid being outdoors where the smoke is bad and visibility is reduced. He said likely south Anchorage and lower Hillside will see the most impacts.
The Air Quality Hotline is 343-4899 and will be updated throughout the weekend.