FILE - In this Friday, July 26, 2019, photo, Anita Thompson, a forester with the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in eastern Arizona, checks an air quality monitor outside an emergency operations center in Flagstaff, Ariz. Among the hundreds of firefighters, aircraft and engines dispatched to fight a recent wildfire in northern Arizona were two women whose focus was not on flames. Their concern was smoke. Because of the health hazards from wildfires spewing spoke into the atmosphere, Congress earlier this year said all top-tier federal teams battling wildland blazes should have at least one specialist assigned to monitor smoke. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca)

Growing program puts air quality specialists on wildfires

August 06, 2019 - 7:01 am

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Among the hundreds of firefighters, aircraft and engines dispatched to a northern Arizona wildfire were two women whose focus wasn't on flames, but smoke.

Carolyn Kelly and Anita Thompson are part of a growing program that dispatches specialists to monitor smoke from wildfires.

Congress earlier this year said all top-tier federal teams battling wildland blazes should have at least one air resource adviser.

The specialists look at smoke models, humidity, weather patterns and fire behavior to gauge the air quality. They then produce a color-coded smoke forecast that tells the public whether it's OK to be outside.

The U.S. Forest Service oversees the program. It has about 95 air resource advisers from various agencies but can't always fill the requests to send them to wildfires.

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