A smoky haze descended on the Las Vegas area Wednesday after winds blew smoke from several Southern California wildfires east, prompting officials to urge some residents to stay indoors.
Clark County officials issued an air quality advisory through Thursday due to strong winds that stirred up desert dust and pushed smoke some 200 miles from Southern California. Forecasters predicted 20- to 30-mph winds and gusts of up to 45 mph for both days.
"The air quality is not looking good out there," said Susan Selby, assistant director of the county's air quality management department.
Officials expect winds to continue through Saturday, posing air quality concerns throughout southern Nevada. Clark County fire officials sent extra personnel to Jean, a town near the California-Nevada line, to treat a handful of travelers complaining of respiratory problems.
"We're pretty socked in with smoke," said Kathryn Hooper, spokeswoman for the Henderson Fire Department. "It's amazing how far smoke can drift."
On the Las Vegas Strip, hotels were enveloped in a smoky fog and visibility was limited. Many motorists drove with their headlights switched on in the middle of the day.
"It's a little scary here," said Donna Dow, 58, a tourist from the Boston area. "Imagine what the poor people in California are feeling."
Her friend, Shirley Neal, 59, said the nasty conditions were hard to ignore.
"You can feel it in the eyes," she said. "It wrecks the view, too."
Officials urged residents with breathing problems to stay indoors or to wear paper surgical masks if leaving their homes.
"It's unreal," said Dawn Baum, a manager-in-training at a Henderson gas station. "We're having customers come in complaining. My co-worker's eyes are burning."
Travelers at McCarran International Airport experienced delays because of the smoke in California, which affected flights taking off and landing in cities closest to the fires, said Debbie Millet, an airport spokeswoman. The smoke did not affect operations at McCarran, she said.
The fires burning across a large swath of Southern California have consumed more than 620,000 acres and killed 20 people, including a firefighter battling the Cedar Fire in San Diego County. More than 2,100 homes have been destroyed.
Ten engines and 44 firefighters from southern Nevada have been sent to assist in Southern California. On Wednesday, the National Park Service said six of its firefighters stationed at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area were headed to California.
Southern Nevada firefighters also collected bottled water at area fire stations to send to base camps set up in Southern California.
"(The fire is) probably going to bring a little bit of awareness to people in the valley," Las Vegas fire spokesman Tim Szymanski said. "Now they know what people are going through in Southern California." .