Update: Tuesday 5pm
Air quality will be moderate to hazardous across the state on Wednesday due to smoke from bushfires, the Environment Protection Authority has said.
The North East, North Central, Gippsland and Central area including Melbourne are likely to experience hazardous air quality on Tuesday evening and Wednesday, with smoke likely also in the west of the state.
The EPA said smoke could affect people's health and people should minimise the time spent in smoky conditions whenever practical to do so.
What you should do:
- Anyone experiencing wheezing, chest tightness and difficulty breathing should call Triple Zero (000).
- If you have concerns about your health you should seek medical advice or call Nurse on Call on 1300 606 024.
- Symptoms of smoke inhalation injury can include itchy eyes, sore throat and runny nose through to shortness of breath, coughing, vomiting, nausea, and confusion.
People should guard against exposure to smoke by taking some simple precautions:
- Stay inside your house if possible; close all windows and doors.
- If you use an air conditioner switch it to "recycle" or "recirculate".
- Avoid exercise.
- Ordinary paper dust masks and handkerchiefs won't filter out fine particles from bushfire smoke - use a special P2 or N95 filter mask, which you can get at a hardware store. Be sure it fits properly
- Be sure it fits properly and you don't have any medical issues that would prevent use.
Smoke and your health:
- Some people are more sensitive to the effects of breathing in smoke.
- You will be more sensitive to smoke if you have a heart or lung condition (including asthma), are pregnant, or are over 65. Children up to 14 are more sensitive to the effects of breathing in smoke.
- If you are sensitive to smoke you should limit prolonged or heavy physical activity. Where possible you should try to stay indoors.
- If you have a heart or lung conditions you should take your medication as prescribed by your doctor.
- If you are asthmatic, follow your asthma plan and carry reliever medication with you.
- For more information on smoke and your health visit https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/your-environment/air/smoke.
Update: Tuesday 4pm
AGRICULTURE Victoria has issued a statement urging people to look after animals, including livestock and domestic animals, during smokey conditions.
"In areas where there are ongoing serious smoke impacts, livestock owners may want to consider relocating their animals, depending on advice from emergency services," the statement said.
"The respiratory symptoms observed are usually increased coughing or increased breathing rates due to minor irritation of the animal's airways.
"Excessive tear production is an indicator of eye irritation.
"Ash fallout, depending on quantity, may impact on the palatability of pasture. If possible livestock should be placed on pastures that have the lowest ash burden. If this is not an option then in order to maintain production, producers may have to increase bail feeding or feed out more good quality hay or silage.
"Veterinary advice should be sought if animal owners are concerned that their animals are being affected by smoke or ash."
Farmers with injured livestock should report it to Agriculture Victoria on 1800 226 226 so that our animal health staff can assess the livestock. If you have injured pets, please seek advice immediately from your local vet.
Update: Tuesday 2pm
STAWELL Gold Mine environmental department member Cameron Hope said mine employees were working on Tuesday.
"The EPA forecasted good to moderate air quality so we are monitoring that with our workforce," he said.
"Our real-time air quality monitors are recording less that half the level of smoke of what Melbourne has. It's not really having an impact on us, but it is a concern on the other side of the state."
A Wimmera Health Care Group spokesman said the hospital hadn't had any cases of people presenting with respiratory issues during the past week.
Update: Tuesday 1.30pm
THE Wimmera Mail-Times has contacted Wimmera Health Care Group, Stawell Regional Health Rural Northwest Health and East Grampians Health Services for comment on whether any patients had been admitted with respiratory issues or asthma.
Update: Tuesday 1pm
HORSHAM TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacist Stuart Hall said the pharmacy had experienced an increase in asthma inhalers sales.
"Generally people who have had asthma are finding it more frequent and severe. New asthmatics might not know what they are experiencing at first," he said.
"If you are feeling a shortness in breath. then your doctor or the hospital is the first point of contact."
Mr Hall said he didn't think there would be a shortage of asthma medication. He said asthmatics could purchase refill inhalers over the counter.
"People are relying of their inhalers more so it's a time for people to be careful and take their health seriously," he said.
Victoria Farmers Federation president David Jochinke, of Murra Warra, urged farmers to work safe and smart.
"We haven't issued a statement about how farmers should be working in these conditions; they need to decide that themselves," he said.
"I urge farmers to put on their headlights so they can see where they're driving, and use good quality face masks if outside.
"They need to be aware of their surroundings and only do the work that is necessary. Smoke can affect your judgement; long exposure to smoke can cause long-term respiratory problems."
Update: Tuesday 12.20pm
A HORSHAM council spokesman said outdoor council staff were working on Tuesday.
"However they have altered some work schedules due to the heat and conditions," he said.
"This includes starting work earlier and completing manual tasks during the morning, when conditions are cooler. In the past, outdoor staff have stopped work due to fires burning in the local area, but not specifically due to smoke."
Bunnings Horsham employee John Guerin said face masks were "walking out the door".
"People are buying them for piece of mind They don't say trey protect you from smoke on the label, but they protect you from dust and fumes," he said.
"We had six boxes of them this morning and they have all gone. Last week they sold out very quickly. We still have some left but they won't last long.
"We've had a lot of carers come in who might look after someone with a lung problem. A lot of people are travelling to Melbourne too for doctors appointments and buying them beforehand."
Mr Guerin said the P2 mask with valves was the best mask to buy for people with lung conditions.
Update: Tuesday 11.30am
How to protect your health from smoke from Better Health Victoria:
IF you are not under threat from a fire, avoid breathing smoke by staying inside with the windows and doors closed.
Reduce physical activity.
People with pre-existing heart or lung conditions, including asthmatics, should take their medication, follow their treatment plan and seek immediate medical advice if symptoms such as breathing issues, wheezing or tightness in the chest persist.
Keep the air inside your home as healthy as possible. If you have an air conditioner, switch it to 'recirculate' or 're-use' and reduce activities that affect indoor air quality, like smoking cigarettes, burning candles or vacuuming.
If your home is uncomfortable, take a break by visiting a friend or relative away from the smoke or visit an air-conditioned centre, like a library, shopping centre or cinema. Check that it's safe to go elsewhere before leaving.
When there's a break in the smoke, open your windows and doors to get rid of any smoke inside the house.
Look out for kids, older people, and other people at risk.
If you are experiencing any symptoms that may be due to smoke exposure, seek medical advice or call NURSE-ON-CALL on 1300 60 60 24.
Anyone experiencing wheezing, chest tightness and difficulty breathing should call 000.
Update: Tuesday 10.30am
THE Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union Victoria-Tasmania has urged people who work outside to stop work due to "hazardous and very poor air quality" across the state.
In a social media post to Facebook on Tuesday morning, the CFMEU said the air quality was "making outdoor work dangerous and unhealthy".
"It is advised to have all personnel relocated to a healthier and safe environment (i.e an air-conditioned space)," the post said.
"When air quality drops to poor and work can recommence, consideration should be given to those that have any medical conditions. This is a health and safety issue, not an inclement weather issue."
Air quality can be monitored on the EPA's website.
Update: Tuesday, 10am
IF you are travelling towards Melbourne today, the air quality becomes more hazardous the further east you head.
The air quality in Melton (the nearest station to Ballarat) has been at its worst possible rating since 9pm on Monday.
It remains rated as "hazardous" this morning and could remain so for the rest of the day.
Read more: Climate change is drying up the Wimmera
However, the amount of fine particles in the air does appear to be dropping, according to the Environmental Protection Authority.
The air quality at Melton. The peak was between 10pm and 11pm.
The haze is likely to prove troublesome to those suffering with coughs and other respiratory illnesses and the Chief Health Officer recommends avoiding strenuous exercise and to remain indoors if people experience difficulties.
Horsham is today forecast to reach 39 degrees and 35 tomorrow, dropping to 27 degrees on Wednesday and rising into the 30s at the end of the week.
Ararat is forecast to hit a top of 35 degrees today and 33 tomorrow, with Stawell expecting temperatures of 37 degrees and 34 degrees.
Update Tuesday 8am:
THE Bureau of Meteorology is predicting smoke from bushfires in Victoria's east to clear from the Wimmera from Wednesday afternoon.
Duty forecaster Chris Arvier said a combination of southerly winds blowing in air from further west and showers on Australia's east coast could lead to some improvement.
On Tuesday morning, visibility at Horsham airport dropped to eight kilometres, as smoke turned the sunrise orange for a second straight day.
Mr Arvier said there would be a high chance of thunderstorms across Victoria on Wednesday, but the Wimmera would largely miss out.
"The highest chance of storms will be in the eastern Wimmera - a 30 to 40 per cent chance - in places like Stawell," he said. "The air has been fairly dry in the region which reduces the chance of storms.
"We could see smoke activity drop a bit with shower activities in the central and eastern districts, which could help control some of the bushfires. There could be accumulated totals of possibly 50 milimetres in some parts of the state between Thursday and Monday."
THE Bureau of Meteorology is predicting smoke haze to persist across the Wimmera until Wednesday.
Senior forecaster Michael Efron said for each of Monday and Tuesday, the smoke would clear up in the afternoon.
"On Wednesday it should clear (altogether) because winds from the south west will bring cleaner air from the Great Australian Bight and Bass Strait," he said.
The Environmental Protection Authority's rating for the Wimmera's air quality for Monday is Moderate to poor.
Mr Efron said there would be a risk of thunderstorms in the Wimmera on Tuesday and Wednesday. He said there was a chance thunderstorms could form in the afternoon or early evening on Tuesday.
"It will mainly be the eastern Wimmera affected," he said.
"Horsham is a chance but more likely Stawell will receive around one to five millimetres of rain on Tuesday and again on Wednesday.
"If you are under a storm you could get 10 to 20 millimetres though. The storm will be slow-moving."
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