Boundary Waters Fire Sends Smoke Through Wisconsin, Into Illinois

Thursday, September 15th, 2011 at 7:19 am

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says the Minnesota forest fire in the Boundary Waters is causing smoke as far away as southeastern Wisconsin. Officials say the air may be unhealthy for everyone.

A lightning strike ignited the northeastern Minnesota blaze Aug. 18 and its smoke has drifted to the Milwaukee and Chicago areas.

The Associated Press reports that officials raised the air quality index to red on Wednesday for several counties in Wisconsin including:  Waukesha, Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties. The elevated levels lasted for several hours Wednesday because of persistent elevated levels of fine particles in the air.

DNR spokesman Bill Cosh says the red index is rare. The last time the index was red was December 20, 2007 for fine particles in the same area. Cosh told the AP that by Wednesday night no Wisconsin counties are expected to have unhealthy air.

Federal guidelines require the air quality to be at a certain level for 24 hours before the official level is changed. Cosh says the weather conditions are improving.

An air quality index of orange was also changed for Dodge County, meaning the quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups.

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