People sensitive to air quality should be careful Sunday afternoon as strong winds are carrying smoke from a wildfire in Georgia to the Triangle.
The National Weather Service in Raleigh said southwest winds are pushing the smoke up from the southeast Georgia fire.
The Division of Environmental Quality air quality index number for the Triangle hit the orange alert level, meaning people who are sensitive to air quality, such as children, the elderly and those with lung disease, should stay inside.
Jamie Kritzer, acting deputy secretary for public affairs for the Department of Environmental Quality, said in an interview Sunday that people with respiratory issues should use caution while the smoke is around.
He said monitoring stations in Durham and Raleigh showed higher air particle pollution in those cities but not at other stations in the area.
“This is a very interesting phenomenon,” he said, with the smoke in a very narrow area.
He said the air quality problems will likely be short-lived, but the smoke could come back to the area in the coming weeks.
“Some of these fires are pretty big,” he said, and the right winds could bring smoke back to parts of North Carolina.
It was widely reported, including by the News & Observer, that state and local officials initially thought the smoke was coming from a wildfire in Pisgah. The McDowell County fire is about 85 percent contained as of Sunday, the U.S. Forest Service said.
The West Mims Fire in Georgia is still burning and, the Weather Service writes, “will likely continue to burn for some time.”
The Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, Fl., reported Friday that the fire had burned almost 9,000 acres in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge along the Georgia-Florida border and officials were concerned that the fire could turn to the north as the wind shifted.
Duncan: 919-829-4880, @duncanreporting