Winds blow wildfire smoke to metro Atlanta, smoky haze continues

- A smoky haze over metro Atlanta continues from drought-fueled wildfires burning across the South.

A Georgia Forestry Commission official said as of 11:30 a.m. Thursday., they have responded to 23 fires in addition to the ongoing fires. 

Thursday's national drought report shows 41.6 million people in parts of 15 southern states are now living in drought conditions. 

The Georgia Forestry Commission said the smoky conditions in Georgia are likely a mix of wildfires burning in north Georgia along with ongoing wildfires in Alabama, Tennessee and North Carolina. Fire officials said the largest of the Georgia blazes, the Rough Ridge fire in the Cohutta Wilderness area, has grown to more than 5,000 acres and continues to grow in size and complexity. 

VIDEO: Smoke from wildfires blanket metro Atlanta

The winds Wednesday are what caused the smoky haze and smell in metro Atlanta, which remained visible Thursday. 

In a press release Wednesday, the Georgia Department of Public Health urged people, especially individuals with chronic heart and lung diseases, to protect themselves from the smoke from the wildfires. Officials said smoke from wildfires that contains particles from burning trees and shrubs can irritate your eyes and respiratory system, and cause more serious problems for people with chronic health conditions.

“Smoke can irritate the eyes and airways, causing coughing, a scratchy throat, irritated sinuses, headaches, stinging eyes or a runny nose. People with heart disease might experience chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath or fatigue. People with lung disease may not be able to breathe as deeply or as vigorously as usual, and they may experience symptoms such as coughing, phlegm, chest discomfort, wheezing and shortness of breath” read the release.

The Georgia Department of Health suggested the following tips to limit your exposure to smoke:

  • Use common sense. If it looks and smells smoky outside limit outdoor activities; yard work, exercise, children playing.
  • Pay attention to local air quality reports and news coverage related to smoke.
  • Keep indoor air as clean as possible if you are advised to stay indoors. Keep windows and doors closed. Run an air conditioner if you have one, but keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside.
  • Avoid activities that increase indoor pollution. Burning candles, fireplaces, or gas stoves can increase indoor pollution. Vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home, contributing to indoor pollution. Smoking also puts even more pollution into the air.
  • Do not rely on dust masks for protection. Paper "comfort" or "dust" masks commonly found at hardware stores are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. These masks will not protect your lungs from the small particles found in wildfire smoke.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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