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Every county in NY will get a wildfire smoke sensor after lacking real-time coverage during summer

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  • Staff Report 

New York is taking proactive measures to ensure enhanced air-quality monitoring in the aftermath of a summer where 28 counties faced wildfire smoke without real-time coverage. Alistair Hayden, Assistant Professor of Practice at Cornell University’s Department of Public and Ecosystem Health, emphasized the urgency of the situation, noting the previous absence of air-quality sensors in nearly half of New York’s counties, which left them vulnerable to the harmful PM2.5 particulate matter.

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In response to this alarming gap in air-quality monitoring, a joint venture has been launched to install PurpleAir Flex air-quality sensors throughout the state. The Cornell Cooperative Extension and the New York State Association for County Health Organization played pivotal roles in the deployment, connecting the sensors to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Fire and Smoke Map. This integration grants real-time air-quality insights to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Department of Health, and the public. Such timely data paves the way for informed decision-making, enabling swift actions such as school closures or the issuance of public advisories during wildfire events.

Keith Tidball, Assistant Director of the Cornell Cooperative Extension, hailed the initiative, predicting its immense value in the likely event of future wildfires. By late October, the installation project, backed by the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability, was nearing completion, promising a safer and better-informed New York.