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Science and Environment

As smoke from tundra fires increases in the region, a cheap new device can help measure air quality

20220611-EastForkFire-KBasile-6884.JPG
Katie Basile
/
for KYUK
Smoke from the East Fork Fire fills the air over the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta on June 11, 2022 in Southwest Alaska.

With increasing wildfires in 2022, a new device has arrived in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta to help track smoke.

PurpleAir monitors are a brand of outdoor smoke detector. These little gadgets tell you how good or bad the air quality is in your area. They go for about $260.

Duncan Leao, an air quality advisor with the Bureau of Land Management, said that the devices have gotten more popular as wildfires have increased. He sent one to St. Mary’s while smoke from the East Fork Fire was threatening their community. It’s the first one in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, though other more populous and wildfire-prone areas have many of them.

The PurpleAir monitors check the level of fine particulate matter, the stuff that can get in your lungs. They post the data every 10 minutes to an interactive map that anyone can access. On June 21 at 5 p.m., the air quality near St. Mary’s was acceptable, but at a level where it could still pose a risk for sensitive groups after 24 hours of exposure.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s air quality advisory for the area was lifted on Jan. 18.

You can monitor the air quality in St. Mary’s and other parts of the state by clicking this link.

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