Large billow of smoke: What exactly are we breathing?

Photo Courtesy: Carla Volz Diaz

Large billow of smoke: What exactly are we breathing?

By Michael Lopardi. CREATED Jul 10, 2013

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- The Carpenter 1 wildfire has left a haze across the Valley and Clark County is warning people about the poor air quality.

A cloud of smoke billows high above the mountains. The haze can be breathtaking, literally. In fact, Clark County has issued an air quality alert.

But that hasn't stopped people from working outdoors.

"As it gets worse, if they don't put the fire out in a couple days or it doesn't rain, I suspect that this area will be nice and polluted where it will start affecting folks," said Ray Bradley, who works outdoors.

The wildfire has provided some beautiful sunset, but ugly breathing conditions.

The county said the smoke is creating downright unhealthy levels of air pollution.

"If you can stay out of it, if you can exercise indoors, if you can minimize your outdoor activities, that's probably a good idea," said Robert Russell with the Clark County Air Quality Dept.

Combining the heat with the poor air quality makes for some pretty unbearable conditions, especially for people with underlying medical problems.

"Coughing. Wheezing. They can get short of breath. They can cough hard and get some chest tightness or chest discomfort," explained Dr. Jasper Liu, family practitioner.

Dr. Liu said his office has not received a lot of complaints yet, but he's prepared for that to change if the fire continues.

While people near the fire may consider wearing face masks, Dr. Liu said it's generally not necessary, "Valley-wide, I think people should at least be aware that there's a lot of smoke. I know a lot of people can see it already, but certainly my patients at higher risk should be aware."

So what exactly are we breathing? The cloud of smoke includes small particles from the fire and pollutants.

The alert is in effect through Thursday, July 10, but that could be extended.

There is a local phone number set up that anyone can call to get information on the Carpenter 1 wildfire. That number is (702) 799-4610.