Take caution if you see haze or smell smoke

Pollution officials say they're hearing reports of heavy smoke and ash in parts of northern Minnesota. If you see haze or smell smoke, you should stay indoors and keep activity to a minimum.

St. Paul, Minn. ? The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has received a number of reports of heavy smoke and the deposition of ash in northeastern Minnesota. The smoke and ash are from the Pagami Creek fire which started due to a lightning strike on Aug. 18, and has expanded significantly in the last week.

Hourly pollution measurements in Duluth, Ely and Grand Portage do not suggest that smoke concentrations have reached a level of health concern near those monitors. However, satellite images, reports from the ground and air pollution monitors in Wisconsin and Illinois indicate that smoke from the Pagami Creek fire has the potential to exceed levels of health concern.

As a result, the MPCA recommends that persons in areas where the smell of smoke or visible haze is present take precautions to reduce exposure. When smoke is present, individuals are encouraged to remain indoors and reduce activity levels. Those with pre-existing cardiovascular or respiratory problems, such as asthma, are particularly susceptible to increases in air pollution as are the elderly and children.

The MPCA is unable to identify exact locations where smoke may reach levels of health concern, and therefore encourages citizens to take precautions if they detect smoke in the area. The MPCA will continue to monitor hourly pollution concentrations at the existing sites in Duluth, Ely and Grand Portage, and will be deploying additional temporary monitors along the North Shore with assistance from the U.S. Forest Service office in Duluth.

Predicted pathways for smoke from the Pagami Creek and other forest fires are available on the National Weather Service’s Upper Mississippi Valley Air Quality Forecast Guide. When on this site, choose “1Hr Average Surface Smoke” from the Guidance Element drop-down menu. Use the Element Period menu to select the time for which you would like to see the predicted smoke pathway.

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