Health Department Issues Air Quality Advisory for Wildfire Smoke

Published on August 29, 2023

The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) today issued a health advisory because of smoke from wildfires occurring in western Canada. 

Heavy smoke being generated by large wildfires in Canada will be carried south into eastern Nebraska over the next few days. In Lancaster County, this is expected to result in periods of poor air quality beginning Tuesday afternoon, August 29, and extending through Thursday morning, August 31. During that time, it is possible that levels of smoke may be unhealthy for everyone. Smoke levels may fluctuate due to weather patterns and smoke production by the fires.

“Smoke from wildfires can cause asthma attacks, worsen chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and cause angina (chest pain) in some people with heart disease,” said Gary Bergstrom, Air Quality Program Supervisor with LLCHD. “Those most at risk are youth, older adults and sensitive individuals with respiratory or heart conditions.”

People at risk should avoid extensive physical activity outdoors or remain indoors with windows and doors closed. People heading outdoors should reduce strenuous physical activity, take plenty of breaks and watch for symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or chest pain. People with asthma should follow their asthma action plans and have quick relief medicine readily available.

Those who experience health effects should contact a medical care provider. Bergstrom said that even a few hours of exposure to high levels of particle pollution may affect those with underlying health conditions. 

Residents are encouraged to check the Air Quality Index (AQI) for the next several days before heading outdoors to stay informed of ongoing air quality conditions. AQI levels in the orange category can cause health problems for sensitive populations, while AQI levels in the red category can cause health problems for everyone.

The LLCHD monitors air quality 24 hours a day. The AQI is available at and is updated hourly. The Environmental Protection Agency also provides the AirNow and SmokeSense smart phone apps to help people stay informed of the AQI in their area.

For more information on LLCHD, visit

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