Arizona may be known for its deserts, but forests make up nearly 27 percent of Arizona’s land. Recently, several wildfires have arisen across the state. By June 28, the Goodwin Fire in Yavapai County has spread to more than 20,000 acres. The Saddle Fire has also grown to nearly 5,000 acres in Cochise County. Evacuations have been ordered for towns near State Route 69. Governor Ducey has declared a State of Emergency for Yavapai County for the Goodwin Fire.
ADHS is supporting the incident by coordinating with multiple state and local agencies on response efforts to keep people safe. Our Public Health Emergency Preparedness Bureau has activated our Health Emergency Operations Center for the fires. We have been coordinating with local aid officials to help meet evacuations, shelter, and other health needs.
Behind the scenes, ADHS is working to ensure continuation of WIC services for those impacted by fires in Arizona. Our Environmental Health Team is monitoring air quality information from air monitors near the wildfires to help assess the health risk and support messaging to protect impacted populations. Particulate matter is the main health concern from wildfire smoke when exposed for a few hours to weeks. What makes up the particles depends on vegetation burned and weather factors. Particulate matter can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat.
Carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas, can also be created by wildfires. The highest levels occur in close proximity to a fire. People close to a fire may experience headache, weakness, dizziness, and nausea from exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide. Some people may be more sensitive to the effects, such as children whose lungs are still developing, pregnant women, older adults, and individuals with respiratory diseases.
There are a few simple steps you can take to reduce smoke exposure including paying attention to local air quality reports, remaining indoors if advised, and staying aware of emergency alerts for evacuation notices. If you are traveling through a smoke impacted area to evacuate, recirculate the air-conditioning in your vehicle to prevent additional smoke exposure. If you are in a wildfire prone area, we have materials to help learn how to protect yourself and your family from/during a wildfire, evacuate safely, and how to stay healthy when you return home.