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Smoke from Interior fires prompts air quality warning on the Kenai

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Riley Board
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KDLL
Smoke obscures Kenai's view across Cook Inlet from Tuesday evening.

Nearly 150 wildland fires are actively burning across Alaska.

There are no large wildfires in the Kenai area. But smoke from the Interior is blowing down to the region. The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation has issued a “moderate” air quality warning for Southcentral Alaska.

“What that really means is individuals who are overly sensitive to air conditions are advised to stay indoors, not go out if you don’t need to," said Brenda Ahlberg, emergency manager for the Kenai Peninsula Borough. "And certainly, if you are outdoors, don’t overexert yourself."

Ahlberg said the air quality warning extends throughout the whole western coast of the peninsula and is in effect until 2 p.m. Friday. The eastern Kenai Peninsula is seeing better air quality.

“So if folks are willing to go over to Seward for Mt. Marathon and Fourth of July activities, they might want to start with an early weekend and get on over there," Ahlberg said.

Alaska has seen over 1.5 million acres burn so far this year from over 350 separate fires, many of which are caused by lightning.

“The number of fires I don't think is that unusual based on the amount of lightning we see," said Jonathan Ashford with the state’s joint information center. "But it’s that combination of significant lightning and very dry conditions throughout the Interior, then supported by continuing dry conditions and warm temperatures, which is allowing a lot of the fires to continue to grow, have more of a longer lifespan.”

He said most of the fire activity happening now is west of Fairbanks. Factor in westerly winds, and a lot of the smoke is blowing toward the state’s population centers.

Ashford said areas that are low-lying or surrounded by mountains collect smoke like a bowl. And the high pressure over most of Alaska isn’t allowing wind or moisture to clear it out.

“Which then of course draws people's attention," he said.

Wind direction is supposed to change tomorrow, though smoke might linger beyond. The Department of Environmental Conservation will issue a new air quality report Friday afternoon.

You can read more about the current advisory here.

You can find the original story here.

Sabine Poux is the news director at KDLL in Kenai. Originally from New York, she's lived and reported in Argentina and Vermont, where she fell in love with local news. She covers all things central peninsula at KDLL, but is especially interested in stories related to energy and fishing. She'd love to hear your ideas at spoux@kdll.org.
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