How to stay safe as wildfires impair air quality in NY's Southern Tier
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How to stay safe as wildfires impair air quality in NY's Southern Tier

Jun 25, 2023

Southward-moving smoke brought on by wildfires in Quebec covered the Southern Tier in thick, hazy conditions Tuesday, prompting the cancellation of many outdoor events and numerous calls to 911 from concerned, even confused, residents.

The New York state Department of Environmental Conservation issued an Air Quality Alert for the region, which has been extended through Wednesday.

Under such conditions, the air can be especially harmful to those with respiratory conditions. When the air quality index reaches 150 or higher — Binghamton's reached 172 Tuesday, and Elmira's hit 191 — it can pose a health risk for everyone.

Here's how to limit the effects of poor air quality from wildfire smoke.

Broome County director of environmental health, Josh Phelps, suggests limiting exposure to contaminants by staying inside, making sure your windows are closed and using an air purifier if you have one.

If it is necessary to go outside, those with sensitivities including asthma or emphysema should wear some sort of mask, like an N-95 or better.

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According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, individuals should also do the following:

Originally scheduled to be lifted at midnight Tuesday, the air quality advisory was extended through midnight Wednesday.

The conditions have prompted closures across community and school events.

"We have been working with our schools to make sure children stay healthy," said Steuben County Public Health Director Darlene Smith. "When the air quality is at an unhealthy level, it's important for everyone to consider what outdoor activities can be rescheduled for when the air quality is better."

A Broome Bands Together concert scheduled for 6 p.m. at Otsiningo Park was postponed Tuesday.

All Broome County Parks beaches, boathouses and concessions were closed due to air quality for the remainder of the day, though the parks themselves remained open.

In Binghamton, Recreation Park's pool and carousel were closed Tuesday, along with youth sports and swim lessons planned at the park.

Cortland's annual dairy parade was canceled and animals at Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville were brought indoors – the Ross Park Zoo was already closed Tuesday for staff training.

"We don't know how long it's going to be here, it's kind of dependent on which way the wind is blowing," Phelps said. "It could be gone tomorrow, it could be here longer than that."

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