The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality will receive additional air quality monitors this week, alleviating concerns that monitors would run short this fire season, according to a department official.
In the next several days, the department will receive the extra units as a loan from a federal agency, said spokesman Cortland Coleman. "We’re hoping to have them as long as they’re needed," he said.
When multiple fires are burning at the same time in the state, the agency has moved its monitoring units to fires that pose the greatest air quality risks. The monitors measure the air for particulates, which can cause respiratory problems depending on the particulate level and an individual’s health. The agency will notify residents when air quality from nearby fires could cause health problems.
While the three monitors have been enough so far this fire season, director Steve Owens said he was concerned the department’s efforts would be hampered if the Jacket fire near Flagstaff got worse, or if another fire started in the state.
"We’d be stretched thin and wouldn’t have the equipment to monitor it," he said.
Last week, the department had two units in Payson, then moved one of the units to the Pine area after backfires and the wind increased fire danger. On Tuesday night, the agency moved its third unit to Safford to monitor ambient air quality near two wildfires on Mount Graham. The agency was monitoring the Jacket fire, where the department has no monitoring equipment.
With additional units, the department will be able to test air quality in more locations if the state deals with more fires burning at the same time.