Smoke from Southcentral blazes creating unhealthy air conditions in Anchorage

A smoke plume from the McKinley Fire burning along the Parks Highway seen from the highway on Sunday. (Photo by Maureen Clark/Alaska Division of Forestry)

Smoke from wildfires north and south of Anchorage is creating unhealthy air quality in the city.

Christy Lawton manages Anchorage’s Environmental Health Services division.

“The forecast for the next two days is that the air quality will probably be fluctuating between moderate to unhealthy,” Lawton said. “At 1:00 p.m today it was unhealthy for sensitive groups. It is now, as of 2:00 p.m., up in the unhealthy range for everybody.”

Lawton says the Air Quality Index for fine particulate pollution reached as high as 189 today, which is in the unhealthy range. She says the department doesn’t anticipate levels higher than that in the next few days, but the level will fluctuate. She says people should limit their exposure outdoors.

“Particularly right now, with where it’s at in the unhealthy range, we would definitely recommend against any strenuous exercising or undue exertion,” Lawton said. “Even if you’re not necessarily particularly sensitive, just because your body may react in different ways.”

Lawton says those who are indoors should also keep their doors and windows closed and use air filtration systems if they are available.

She says citizens can stay up to date by visiting the Anchorage Health Department’s website. They can also call a local hotline with questions at 907-343-4899.