Juneau officials lift borough-wide ‘air emergency’

Theo Houck looks for pedicab passengers as Volendam passengers disembark in downtown Juneau on July 12, 2019. Houck had taken 6 days off because air quality had gotten unhealthy and he asthma-like symptoms.

Theo Houck looks for pedicab passengers as Volendam passengers disembark in downtown Juneau on July 12, 2019. Houck had taken six days off because air quality had gotten unhealthy, and he experienced asthma-like symptoms. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

Friday morning, the City and Borough of Juneau ended the “air emergency” that had been in effect all week.

Open burning and burning with a permit can resume.

Anecdotal reports attribute this week’s poor air quality to respiratory problems and canceled hiking tours, though a Bartlett Regional Hospital official said activity there hasn’t been out of the ordinary.

Theo Houck pedals for Juneau Pedicab. He saw the doctor, took six days off in a row and is being treated for asthma-like symptoms, though he’d never been diagnosed with it.

“Tightness in my chest and wheezing. So it’s just a feeling that I couldn’t breathe, almost?” Houck said. “I would, you know, walk up the stairs and have to stop halfway up to catch my breath. And I’m still wheezing.”

The state’s air quality sensor at Floyd Dryden Middle School in the Mendenhall Valley puts the air quality in the Environmental Protection Agency’s good range. As of noon Friday, sensors downtown were reporting air quality ranging from moderate to unhealthy for sensitive groups.

The National Weather Service forecast for the borough predicts haze into Saturday night.

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