Unhealthy air is expected to again blanket the Charlotte region on Wednesday as winds blow in smoke from mountain wildfires.
State forecasts show Code Red, or generally unhealthy air, in Mecklenburg and 13 surrounding counties. Slightly better air is expected in the counties in North Carolina’s western tip where many of the fires are burning.
Major wildfires have charred more than 44,000 acres in the mountains and foothills, battled by some 2,000 firefighters.
The state Division of Air Quality and the U.S. Forest Service have already measured unhealthy levels of fine particles in smoke from the fires.
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The particles can impair breathing and aggravate respiratory conditions such as asthma and emphysema. They can also penetrate deeply into the lungs and reach the bloodstream, causing or aggravating heart and lung diseases. People with those conditions, as well as young children and the elderly, are most at risk.
The state forecast means everyone in these areas should avoid or reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors, and sensitive groups should avoid any activity outside.
“Local air quality conditions can vary widely due to winds, the spread of fires and other weather factors,” said Mike Abraczinskas, deputy director of the air division. “Residents should limit their time outside if they observe low visibility and odors due to smoke, which indicates that the air is probably unhealthy to breathe.”