It ain’t easy being wheezy

A controlled burn in the Perth hills. Video: Matthew Ellul.

Smoke has blanketed Perth this week from prescribed burns along the Swan Coastal Plain, Perth Hills and private burns.

Good weather has provided opportunity for these burns to be undertaken, however an inversion layer where cool air is trapped below a layer of warm air has led to smoke lingering throughout the city.

Asthma WA chief executive Donna Rendell says smoke is a massive issue for people with respiratory and other illnesses.

“This is not something that’s just affecting people with asthma. It’s also people with heart disease and people with other co-morbidities,” she says.

There are systems in place in WA to warn the publkic of prescribed burnings and air quality for people with asthma when air pollution might be high.

Asthma WA is working with major stakeholders to ensure these systems are effective.

The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions announce all prescribed burning two weeks prior to the day.

Emergency WA is a service mapping out all smoke warnings and prescribed burnings scheduled for the specific day.

The Emergency WA website. Image: Matthew Ellul.

The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation also provide a service called the Air Quality Index which measures the quality of the air state-wide through measuring facilities, ranking quality from very good to extreme.

Asthma WA also has a Facebook group called Asthma Alert, providing smoke warnings and a support group for people with respiratory illness.

Ms Rendell says these systems help to provide information to the public in relative real time. 

“At the moment our main work is to communicate what options are available to people so they can self-manage,” Ms Rendell says.

However informing people of smoke warnings in such a large state is complex.

Ms Rendell says managing asthma and being aware of your triggers is crucial.

“It’s really important that if smoke is a trigger for you that you are managing your asthma really well.”

DBCA fire services manager Stefan de Haan says there is a long and extensive planning process for an individual burn to be approved and undertaken.

“We have quite an involved planning process that goes for months or even years given the complexity of the burn,” he says.

“Smoke can be a little bit tricky, you can appreciate that you know weather forecasting is not a precise science. We work very close with the Bureau and get some quite detailed advice about winds at all levels, but things don’t always play out as forecast.”

Asthma WA is a free service for help if you are concerned. https://asthmawa.org.au/contact/

Categories: Emergency, Weather

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