Smoke from fires in the Flint Hills has spread as far north as Omaha, prompting Nebraska counties to issue health advisories.
In Nebraska, Douglas County joined Lancaster County in issuing air quality warnings Thursday.
A Douglas County news release said the air was unhealthy because of particulate levels caused mostly by agriculture fires in northeast Kansas and southeast Nebraska.
The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department first issued a warning Tuesday night. Health director Judy Halstead told the Associated Press on Thursday that the air was unhealthy for everyone, not just the elderly or people with lung or other respiratory issues. People most at risk were advised to stay indoors and avoid strenuous physical activity.
The problem was caused by ranchers burning range land to control invasive plant species, such as sumac and Eastern red cedar, and to provide better forage for cattle. Winds out of the south pushed the smoke toward Nebraska, but wind speeds were too low to completely disperse the smoke.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment also advised residents to take precautions, warning that heavy smoke could spread across the state, depending on wind direction and the amount of burning.
“One outcome of the burns is the release of a large amount of particulate matter and substances that can form ozone in the air during a relatively short time period,” the agency’s advisory said.
The agency recommended that people avoid strenuous outdoor exercise, keep doors and windows closed, and drink lots of water. It recommends that people with heart or breathing-related illnesses remain indoors. The state’s air quality monitoring network showed no problems in Kansas on Thursday.
Ranchers typically burn pasture in April.
Contributing: Associated Press