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DNR issues air quality alert for Northern Wisconsin until midnight

Published: Aug. 26, 2021 at 7:25 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - The Wausau Fire and Police Department searched for a fire in Marathon County early on Thursday, but they never found one. The heavy haze of smoke was coming from Minnesota wildfires.

“The majority of the smoke that is impacting the northern half of the state today is coming from the Greenwood fire in Minnesota, I think it’s burned a little over 20,000 acres right now,” said Craig Czarecki, public information specialist for the DNR Air Program.

That’s wasn’t the only wildfire smoke affecting Marathon County.

“We’re also seeing that smoke and haze still pushing in from California and Montana,” said Chad Franzen, Newschannel 7 meteorologist.

Franzen said in the last 24 hours with mid-level, upper-level and surface-level winds all shifted toward the Northwest.

The largest contributor to the smoke in the Wausau area was the Minnesota fires. They are not as far away as the California fires.

“That smoke isn’t getting up into the atmosphere as high, so it’s having more of an impact here at ground level,” said Czarecki.

The air index quality in Taylor County, which is the closest county to Marathon with a monitor that detects fire pollutants is red. That means that sensitive groups like the elderly, children, and those with breathing problems my experience severe side effects. Even those not sensitive to air quality could have itchy eyes, coughing and even difficulty breathing.

DNR issues air quality alert for Northern Wisconsin until midnight.
DNR issues air quality alert for Northern Wisconsin until midnight.(Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources | Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)

It’s all because of an air pollutant called particulate matter that is caused by the fires.

“Those particles are so tiny, if you breathe them in they can get into your respiratory tract and actually into your bloodstream,” said Czarecki.

Luckily Meteorologioist Franzen doesn’t predict it will be here for long.

“We’ll get a little bit of a wind shift, but more so the fact that we are going to get some heavy rain that will help clear some of this out,” said Franzen.

The DNR recommended limiting strenuous activities or moving inside while the air quality alert is active. It ends at midnight, but Czarecki said it may be extended.

For updates on air quality, download the mobile app called Wisconsin AQM. Or sign up on the DNR website for text and email alerts.

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