KDHE issues air quality warning
It was no April Fool's joke in Newton, the creeks of Sand Creek were on fire the morning of April 1. Part of a prescribed burn that limits volunteer tree growth along the banks which were restored by the Army Corps of Engineers several years ago.
Prescribed or controlled burns were popular that day — popular enough that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment issued an air quality warning.
According to KDHE,conditions were ideal for burning in the Flint Hills and surrounding areas April 1. The burning activity combined, with remnant smoke from the previous day's activity, was expected to lead to elevated air pollutant levels throughout parts of the Flint Hills and central Kansas.
The Air Quality Index ranged from Moderate to Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups, and even Unhealthy near burn activity. Current air quality and AQI can be viewed at https://www.airnow.gov/.
According to KDHE, burning within the Flint Hills occurs annually to help preserve the tallgrass prairie, control invasive species such as Eastern Red Cedar and Sumac, and provide better forage for cattle. Prescribed burning minimizes risk of wildfires and is effective in managing rangeland resources. Smoke from the burns can influence the air quality of downwind areas and can be carried long distances.
Prescribed burns release large amounts of particulate matter (PM) and substances that can form ozone. Particulate matter and ozone can cause health problems, even in healthy individuals. Common health problems include burning eyes, runny nose, coughing, and illnesses such as bronchitis. Individuals with respiratory issues, pre-existing heart or lung diseases, children, and elderly may experience worse symptoms.
KDHE issued steps to protect health on days when smoke is present in the community:
Healthy people should limit or avoid strenuous outdoor exercise.
People with respiratory or heart related illnesses should remain indoors.
Help keep indoor air clean by closing doors and windows and running air conditioners with air filters.
Keep hydrated by drinking lots of water.
Contact your doctor if you have symptoms such as chest pain, chest tightness, shortness of breath or severe fatigue.
KDHE and partners continue to implement the Flint Hills Smoke Management Plan to help mitigate air quality impacts that result from burning. The plan includes recommendations to minimize and disperse the smoke produced by burning.
For more information about the burning in the Flint Hills and the Flint Hills Smoke Management Plan, please visit the following website: www.ksfire.org