Las Vegas Sun

July 31, 2014

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Smoke takes toll on workers at outdoor businesses

The smoke that hovered Wednesday over the Las Vegas Valley was of special concern for local companies whose employees work primarily outdoors.

Professional Roofing Services – one of the largest roofing companies in the state with 200 employees – canceled its work for the day in Northern Nevada because of the wildfire and smoke. Although its Las Vegas operations remained open, some work was curtailed because of the smoky conditions, said owner Tamara Shaw-Cicchetti.

Concerns about visibility forced the company, which contracts on single-story homes to high-rise buildings, to limit work Wednesday to five-story buildings or lower, Shaw-Cicchetti said. The smoke also kept the company from spraying environmentally friendly polyurethane foam on building frameworks – the air pollution would nullify the “green efficiency” rating of the foam, she said.

Professional Roofing Services, which has 200 employees across the state, also cautioned its workers to use company-issued facemasks and ventilators to keep air particles at bay. “We don’t want any of our workers to get sick,” Shaw-Cicchetti said.

The same advice went for the 13 employees who work for Anne Travis’ Landview Landscape, a Henderson landscaping company that has operated in the valley for nine years. Because spring is the company’s “busy season,” employees kept working but were cautioned to use facemasks, Travis said.

Although it’s difficult to estimate the financial impact of smoky conditions on southern Nevada businesses, the impact has been severe, Shaw-Cicchetti said. Often the fires and smoke force some companies to cancel work for several days because of air quality and visibility conditions, she said.

“We’ve had two or three major wildfires in Reno in the past six months,” she said. “They’ve been pretty bad.”

The relatively dry winter and record-breaking spring temperatures have created conditions that are ripe for wildfires across the state, officials said. Already this year, local wildland firefighters responded to 162 wildfires that burned more than 5,700 acres of public lands, said Kirsten Cannon, a Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman.

While half of the wildfires are caused by lightning, half are still caused by humans, Cannon said. Several organizations – including BLM, the National Park Service and the Nevada Division of Forestry – issued fire restrictions Wednesday in light of the increased potential for wildfires.

The restrictions prohibit outdoor smoking, welding and fireworks on public lands. Campfires are generally prohibited in most public lands, but are allowed in designated picnic, boat, shoreline and barbecue grill areas in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. At BLM parks, visitors can use a portable gas-fueled stove instead of a charcoal- or wood-fueled one, Cannon said.

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