Prescribed burn season underway in Nebraska, surrounding states
LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - Officials say prescribed burns throughout the next few months may impact air quality in Nebraska.
According to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, prescribed burning season has begun in Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and other states.
Prescribed burns are done to conserve and manage areas like grasslands, woodlands and wetlands.
“This practice can reduce hazardous fuel loads, restore and preserve natural wildlife habitats, provide better forage for cattle, and control invasive plant species,” the Nebraska DHHS said in a statement. “Prescribed burning minimizes the risk of wildfires and is effective in managing rangeland resources.”
Although the burns can provide long-term benefits for the environment, the smoke can impact air quality temporarily. Potential wildfires throughout the year can also impact air quality. The DHHS says the air may only be impacted for only a few hours during a prescribed burn, but wildfire smoke can impact air quality for multiple days.
In 2018 the DHHS announced the development of the public smoke advisory system. Smoke advisories are issued when smoke from planned burns or wildfires negatively impacts air quality. The advisories inform residents in affected areas of what they should do to protect themselves during times when the air quality is negatively impacted.
Smoke advisories are developed in coordination with the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy, the DHHS, local health departments and other sources in the region.
One region that often has prescribed burns is the Flint Hills rangeland in Kansas and Oklahoma. In a typical year, roughly 2.4 million acres are burned in the Flint Hills. Last year, some areas of Nebraska were impacted by the smoke from these burns.
In 2022, Nebraska saw nearly 2.1 million acres burned and there were eight days when the air quality was considered “moderate” on the index scale.
The DHHS says smoke from prescribed burns and wildfires can cause several negative health effects, especially for those with pre-existing conditions. Smoke can cause burning eyes, runny nose, coughing and illnesses such as bronchitis. The DHHS recommends Nebraska residents follow some advice when the air quality is poor:
- Keep doors and windows closed and run air conditioners with HEPA filters.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
- Limit or avoid strenuous outdoor exercise.
- People with respiratory or heart-related illnesses should remain indoors.
- Contact your doctor if you have symptoms such as chest pain, chest tightness, shortness of breath, or severe fatigue.
Current air quality in Nebraska can be checked online through AirNow, a tool that uses the Air Quality Index.
Copyright 2023 WOWT. All rights reserved.