UWG Students and other Carrollton natives were greeted by an unpleasant smoky smell caused by the North Georgia Wildfires late last week.
Visibility was reduced, and air quality suffered as a change in wind direction carried dust and ash particles towards metro Atlanta.
A number of isolated wildfires have sprung up in Georgia, Tennessee, and the western Carolinas due to the severe drought that is plaguing the southeast. An increase in wind speed as well as a change in direction caused the smoke, ash and dust particles to drift into the metro and west Georgia areas.
The added particles in the air pose a risk to children and elderly who are exposed to the clogged air for an extended period of time.
According to the Georgia Department of Public Health (GDPH), the conditions can still be hazardous to young healthy adults, especially if they suffer from conditions such as lung disease, asthma or allergies.
“We especially urge parents and caregivers to pay careful attention to children and older adults and seek medical care if needed,” said Jean O’Connor, director of Chronic Disease Prevention at the Georgia Department of Public Health. “Older adults are more susceptible to smoke because of their increased risk of heart and lung problems. Children’s airways are still developing and they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults.”
Anybody outside in the smoky conditions need to be cautious, and listen to their body if it sends signs that it needs to be out of the smoke. Fatigue, shortness of breath and dizziness are symptoms of wildfire smoke inhalation; even if you aren’t doing strenuous activity. Simply breathing in the smoke can cause harm to anybody’s respiratory system.
GDPH advises against wearing a paper or “comfort” mask, as they will have little to no effect. Those type of masks are for protecting from large particles such as pollen and sawdust. The ash and dust particles are too small to be filtered by a mask.
As far as the fires go, they will continue to spread as the wind keeps up and the rain stays away. According to Wendy Burnett, spokesperson for the Georgia Forestry Commission, the wildfires in the state are only 11 percent contained.
The simplest thing that can help the firefighters and Georgia’s crops and cattle is rain. However, according to the National Weather Service, the best chance Georgia has for rain this week is Sunday, Nov. 20, which is still a measly 40 percent.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, nearly a third of the state is in a level four drought, the highest of its category. Over eight million people in Georgia are in a state of drought, and unless some rain falls, the drought and the wildfires will continue to spread.