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Las Vegas: Wildfire grows; air quality downgraded to unhealthful

July 10, 2013|By Jay Jones
  • Dense smoke from a raging wildfire hung over the Las Vegas Valley at sunset Tuesday evening, resulting in an air quality rating of unhealthful on Wednesday.
Dense smoke from a raging wildfire hung over the Las Vegas Valley at sunset… (Jay Jones / For The Times )

Air quality in Las Vegas was downgraded to unhealthful on Wednesday as smoke from the large and growing Carpenter 1 wildfire cast a shroud over the Strip late Tuesday.

Although winds again changed overnight, sending the worst of the heavy, gray and black smoke away from the tourist corridors, Phillip Wiker, a meteorologist with the Clark County Department of Air Quality, said, “What moved over us last night is still there. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.”

An air quality alert means that at-risk individuals such as children, the elderly and those with respiratory ailments, as well as healthy people could develop lung problems if they remain outside for lengthy periods of time, Wiker said.

His advice, based on federal government guidelines:  “Avoid prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors” until air quality improves.

If you’re Vegas-bound for the weekend, here’s the good news: The department expects conditions to improve by Friday.

Its forecast for Friday through Sunday is for moderate air quality, which would be of most concern to people in the at-risk groups. Wiker said that rain predicted for later this week, if it materializes, would improve air quality. But he added that significant growth in the fire’s size could have the opposite effect.

The wildfire, burning in the Spring Mountains about 30 miles northwest of Las Vegas, grew overnight from more than 19,000 acres to more than 25,000 acres, said Suzanne Shelp, a U.S. Forest Service employee handling public information for the team fighting the Carpenter 1 blaze.

Because the fire grew 30%, the fire’s containment has dropped to 10% by Wednesday. It stood at 15% on Tuesday.

Several buildings but no homes burned Tuesday along state Highway 157, one of two roads leading into the recreational area known as Mt. Charleston. Both those roads remain closed at their junctions with U.S. 95 north of Las Vegas.

The wildfire Incident Information System website called the potential for growth “high.”

The number of firefighters working on the wildfire increased to nearly 1,100 Wednesday,  274 more than were working on it Tuesday.

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