TWIN FALLS — The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare issued a warning Wednesday to limit time outdoors because of smoky air.
“Smoke from several wildfires in Idaho and surrounding states is affecting the air quality for residents in nearly every Idaho community and is expected to continue to do so for the next several days,” IDHW wrote in a statement.
The Twin Falls School District kept children inside for recess Wednesday due to poor air quality, and outdoor after-school activities, including sporting events, were canceled.
Air quality has been severely reduced across the Idaho panhandle and south to the Clearwater drainages, and in southwest and southern Idaho.
“Staying indoors is the best way to reduce exposure to smoke,” IDHW environmental health director Colby Adams said in a statement. “If you have to be outside, remember that surgical masks, bandanas, and dust masks do not reduce the amount of smoke you breathe.”
Respirators must be certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to provide adequate protection, and must fit tightly around the mouth and nose. There aren’t any respirators certified for children.
The health department said older adults, infants, children and people with medical problems should limit outdoor activities.
“People who use inhalers for asthma or other conditions should keep them close at hand,” the department said. “Everyone is advised to seek medical treatment for uncontrolled coughing, wheezing, choking, or if breathing difficulties continue after they move indoors.”
Public health officials offer this advice:
Older adults, small children and those with health conditions such as respiratory issues or heart disease should stay inside and avoid heavy work when the air quality is at an unhealthy level.
Everyone should limit heavy work or outdoor exercise.
Monitor the Air Quality Index. Otherwise, use visibility to determine air quality. When visibility is less than five miles, sensitive groups should limit activity. Air quality is unhealthy when visibility is less than three miles, and visibility of less than one mile is hazardous and everyone should avoid all outdoor activities.
For homes with a central air system, run the fan blower continuously to recirculate indoor air. Use a filter designed to collect smoke particles.
For homes without a central heating or cooling system, use portable air purifiers.
If you don’t have clean air indoors, visit community places — such as a public library — that have air conditioning.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality index is 156 for Twin Falls — unhealthy.
The closest fires are north and west of Stanley, but there are multiple fires burning in northern and north-central Idaho, western Montana, Washington, Oregon, northern California and southwestern Canada.