This photo of the Bitterroot Valley Wildfire in Montana, taken on Aug. 6, 2000, is argued by some to be the best wildfire photo ever taken. John McColgan, a BLM firefighter, took this photo while fighting fires. McColgan says he "just happened to be in the right place at the right time."

Editor’s Note: The following alert on the hazards of smoke from forest fires comes from this week’s issue of “Wednesday Morning Coffee Talk & Updates,” the e-newsletter of the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC).

Despite the news media … the entire state is not on fire. Though depending on where you live and the wind direction on any given day, it may seem like it. However, when smoke does fill the air, you may wonder if the smoke is a health hazard and if there is anything you can do to protect yourself and your workers.

Health effects depend upon the level of smoke exposure and the susceptibility of the individual. People with asthma, lung disease, or heart disease are more likely to be affected by smoke. Symptoms can include irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract, cough, phlegm, wheezing, or difficulty in breathing. Individuals with cardiovascular disease may experience chest pain or arrhythmias. Exposure to smoke may also depress the lung’s ability to fight infection. The risk of cancer or other long-term health effects from short-term exposure to smoke, however, is considered to be quite low.

Employers should stay alert. They should listen to local news, weather forecasts, and air quality alerts. Air quality advisories and news can also be found atwww.airnow.gov. Air quality districts rate the air as good, moderate, unhealthy for sensitive groups, unhealthy, very unhealthy, or hazardous. Depending upon the conditions, recommendations may be made that apply to sensitive groups or to everyone. These recommendations are geared towards the general public, so employers should be sure to use appropriate judgment when applying them to the workplace.

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