Arizona wildfires spread to New Mexico

Health officials warn residents in affected areas of potential respiratory problems and urge them to stay indoors.

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    Hot, windy and dry conditions are forecasted through the region, hampering fire fighters' efforts [GALLO/GETTY]

    The wildfires in eastern Arizona grew to 1,080 square kilometres on Saturday and scattered embers also ignited fire in neighbouring New Mexico. The size of this fire would be equivalent to the size of the city of Houston, Texas. As of Saturday evening, only five per cent of the blaze had been contained.

    The wildfires are not only turning acres of forest land to cinders. They are also causing health officials to warn residents of Arizona and New Mexico of potential respiratory problems. Tiny, sooty particles from the smoke in eastern Arizona are nearly 20-40 times higher than the federal health standard. 

    The microscopic particles, about 1/28th the width of a human hair, can get lodged in the lungs and cause serious health problem. As opposed to larger particles of dust which can easily be coughed out of your  respiratory system, particles from wildfires can be lodged much deeper into your lungs and very difficult to expel. 

    Officials advise that to minimise adverse effects of wildfire smoke you should stay indoors with windows and doors closed, preferably in air-conditioned areas and avoid vigorous exercise. If you need to go outside, cover your nose and mouth with a mask designed to filter fine particles.

    In Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Veterinary Medical Association is also recommending that people keep their pets inside and follow the same guidelines as they would themselves. The public is also advised to pay particular caution to wildlife, which can be confused and startled during these smoky conditions.

    It will take weeks if not longer to get this magnitude of a wildfire under control.  Hot, windy and dry conditions are forecasted through the region, only hampering the efforts of the fire fighters.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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