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Code Red air quality forecast for Thanksgiving; Code Purple for McDowell County

Code Red air quality is considered unhealthy and is forecast for much of Western North Carolina on Thanksgiving. Code Purple, the lowest on the air quality index, has been forecast for McDowell County. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Another day of Code Red air quality conditions causes health concerns across the mountains as crews try to get a handle on wildfires.

Code Red air quality is considered unhealthy and is forecast for much of Western North Carolina on Thanksgiving day. Code Purple, the lowest on the air quality index, has been forecast for McDowell County.

On Wednesday, Asheville was shrouded in smoke that's coming from fires 20 to 30 miles away. The problem with multiple fires and shifting winds is that air quality conditions change. Where you are and when you're there can make a big difference.

RELATED | Code Red air quality in Asheville as wildfire smoke blankets the mountains

These are busy days at allergy clinics across the mountains. Patients are having a tough time with all the smoke.

Dr. Leon Elliston with Allergy Partners said he feels especially bad for children with a holiday weekend ahead.

"They can't exercise outdoors. If they do, they have coughing and chest tightness," Dr. Elliston said. "I have some trouble from the smoke myself, so everyone is bothered to some degree."

Much of what we're breathing is coming from wildfires like the 2,000-acre Clear Creek blaze in McDowell County. People who live nearby were briefed Tuesday night and reminded their fire is not the only one causing air quality problems, and putting it out won't make them go away.

"As much as I don't want to say it, I think we can expect to see smoke for awhile, not only out of this fire, but out of some of the surrounding ones," Pisgah National Forest Ranger Nick Larson said.

The warning signs are everywhere, alerting locals and people passing through that life in the mountains is not normal right now. When you see someone wrapped in a winter scarf on a pleasant fall day, you know something's not right.

"The smoke is really heavy down here, and I just didn't want to be breathing it into my lungs so much," Carol Swing, of Weaverville, said.

But there are still a lot of locals, tourists and street performers going about their business as usual. The "Bubble Lady," Ashley Blose, put it into perspective.

"Everyone I know is sneezing a lot more, and stuff. So, yes, it's affecting us, but we're at least grateful that we don't have to move because of the fires," Blose said. "So, it could be much worse."

Dr. Elliston said people who already have respiratory problems need to be especially careful. He advises people stay indoors as much as possible until we get out of this smoky situation.

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