Smoke creates dangerous conditions across Upper Plains

Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 6:41 PM CDT
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WATERTOWN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The smoke from wildfires in Manitoba, Canada plunged northeastern South Dakota into a haze all day Thursday, especially in Watertown and at Lake Kampeska. And it’s cause for concern for both health and safety issues.

Even though the fires are hundreds of miles north, the smoke blanketed eastern South Dakota. Watertown Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Chad Fischer said they even heard from a few people today confused by the amount of smoke outside.

“We have fielded quite a few phone calls at the fire department. I know our dispatch is busy, we actually had quite a few 9-1-1 calls.” said Fischer.

Across northeastern South Dakota, visibility was also limited for those traveling. And it dropped to dangerous levels both in towns and out in the country.

“It’s almost surreal. We were down to a half-mile visibility today at different times. And I know there are reports of even shorter distances than that.” said Fischer.

Most importantly, the smoke in the air can irritate many with allergies and those with breathing concerns. The air quality in Watertown dipped to “Hazardous” on the Air Quality Index by noon, and Fischer said it affected more than just those outside.

“I know even furnace filters are kind of struggling right now to keep up. We’ve had some calls about people having smoke, the smell in their homes. So, and vehicles.” said Fischer.

Fischer repeated what many health officials have stated before, that anyone with health concerns stay inside and everyone else to limit their time outdoors. And he said exercise in these conditions should be out of the questions.

The South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources issued an air quality alert for areas of eastern South Dakota where smoke from wildfires in Canada has settled. Currently, the National Weather Service in Aberdeen has smoke sticking around in the region until at least Friday morning.

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