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Western wildfires mar Fargo area’s air quality; masks, AC can help reduce exposure

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FARGO – Wildfires in the western United States and Canada are the source of a haze that’s adversely affected air quality in North Dakota and Minnesota this week.

By mid-morning Thursday, Aug. 9, the North Dakota Department of Health website showed air quality was unhealthy for people with sensitive respiratory systems over a large area, ranging from roughly the Fargo area to the Grand Forks area.

Air quality in Bismarck was deemed to be unhealthy in general.

Smoky air began affecting the region on Wednesday, Aug. 8, but it became more of an issue for North Dakota on Thursday, according to Ryan Mills, who works with air quality monitoring for the Health Department.

Mills said it was hard to predict how conditions might change, as air quality is dependent on a variety of weather factors.

In Minnesota, air quality was good to moderate for most of the state Thursday afternoon, and the last air quality alert expired about 10 a.m. Thursday.

The North Dakota Department of Health warned Thursday that high particulate numbers coupled with hot temperatures over the next few days could worsen respiratory conditions, particularly for people with conditions such as asthma and allergies, as well as the elderly and young children. Those groups should limit prolonged outdoor exposure, according to the agency.

State officials said masks can help reduce exposure, but they should be the N95 type, which remove at least 95 percent of air particles. Regular dust and surgical masks do not remove fine particles, officials said.

The Health Department advised that closing up a house with no air conditioning could lead to unhealthy high temperatures inside the home. People who don’t have air conditioning are advised to consider relocating to a friend or relative’s home with air conditioning, or a public space that has it.

As of Thursday afternoon, an air quality alert for all of western Minnesota was set to expire Saturday morning, Aug. 11.

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