ROME — Tina Westcott, a CSEA/ VOICE Local 100A Group Family Child Care Provider in Oneida County, moved quickly to protect the children in her care when she noticed the air quality deteriorating outside her home-based daycare due to recent Canadian wildfires.
“The wildfire smoke was a scary time,” said Westcott, who is CSEA/ VOICE Local 100A’s Herkimer-Oneida- Madison Chapter Representative. “I had taken the children outside that Tuesday early in the morning, trying to avoid the rain. The air quality seemed fine; it just looked gloomy like it always does before it is going to rain.”
Within an hour, Westcott started noticing her throat getting scratchy and decided to bring the children back into her home.
“By noon, it smelled like someone was burning wood in the neighborhood, and it just worsened as the day progressed,” said Westcott.
As parents arrived to pick up their children later that day, Westcott continued her efforts to safeguard them by minimizing the time children and parents were outdoors.
“We agreed the pick-ups needed to be quick,” said Westcott. “The arrival and departure of children continued to be quick for the next couple of days, with parents just handing them to me and leaving instantly due to the air quality.”
Westcott was also unable to take the children outside while the air quality continued to be poor.
“It was too difficult to breathe, and some of the children had allergies,” said Westcott. “To protect the health of the children, we decided to stay inside. They were sad and constantly asked to go outside, but we explained to them that we could not and did the best we could by doing things that allowed the children to use their large motor skills while remaining inside the child care home.”
“I have never experienced anything like this wildfire smoke, but I did everything I could to keep my child care children, families, staff, and myself safe,” said Westcott.
— Jill Asencio