Eagle County’s air quality advisory now extends into Friday | VailDaily.com

Eagle County’s air quality advisory now extends into Friday

VAIL — The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued yet another an air quality health advisory Thursday morning for Eagle County and 13 other Western Colorado counties.

The first advisory was issued Tuesday and was subsequently extended on Wednesday. Thursday’s advisory extends to 9 a.m. Friday.

In addition to Eagle County, affected counties include Summit, Pitkin, Garfield, Moffat, Routt, Grand, Jackson, Rio Blanco, Mesa, Delta, Lake, Park, and Gunnison.

Routt County, home to Steamboat Springs, is the site of two local wildfires: the Big Red fire at more than 1,400 acres and the Deep Creek fire at more than 2,000 acres.

Be an indoorsman

Smoke from regional wildfires in Colorado, combined with smoke drifting into the region from large fires burning around the West, settles into valleys overnight, say state health officials.

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“Occasional smoke will continue to be transported from fires in the northwestern U.S. and western Canada into Colorado,” according to the CDPHE. “Additionally, some larger wildfires in northwestern Colorado are contributing to the smoke. The heaviest smoke impacts on Thursday are expected to be in the Front Range region of northeastern Colorado along with the advisory area described above.

“However, all of Colorado will occasionally be impacted by wildfire smoke on Thursday, so unusually sensitive people should consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion statewide.”

Chris Lindley, Eagle County's public health director, said you should limit your exposure to strenuous outdoor activities.

"When visibility is less than five miles, people should remain indoors, if possible," Lindley said.

That's especially true for people with heart disease, respiratory trouble, the very young and the elderly, Lindley said.

"Be smart about it. If you can stay indoors the next few days, it will be best for you and your health," Lindley said.

It will affect some people differently than others, and some people not at all, Lindley said.

"If you're feeling the effects — things like runny nose and sore throat — stay inside if you can," Lindley said.

It's impossible to say how long the smoke will linger.

"It's based on fires and current weather conditions," Lindley said.

No comfort masks

Take no comfort in a "comfort" mask if you're trying to protect your lungs from wildfire smoke.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said those comfort masks, or dust masks found at hardware stores, are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. The masks will not protect your lungs from small particles found in wildfire smoke.

"Smoke from wildfires is a mixture of gases and fine particles from burning trees and other plant materials. Smoke can hurt your eyes, irritate your respiratory system and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases," the CDC said.

Thousands of firefighters

As of Tuesday, more than 27,000 firefighters and support personnel were fighting wildland fires that have burned hundreds of thousands of acres across Western states. Hardest hit are Montana, Oregon and California. Montana's fires have consumed more than 660,000 acres. The hot, dry conditions made it possible for the fires to gain thousands of acres over the weekend, said the National Interagency Fire Center.

Who is at greatest risk from wildfire smoke?

• People who have heart or lung diseases, like heart disease, chest pain, lung disease, or asthma, are at higher risk from wildfire smoke. In general, people with these conditions are at higher risk of having health problems than healthy people.

• Older adults are more likely to be affected by smoke. This may be due to their increased risk of heart and lung diseases.

• Children are more likely to be affected by health threats from smoke. Children’s airways are still developing and they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults. In addition, children often spend more time outdoors engaged in activity and play.

Take steps to decrease your risk from wildfire smoke

• Check local air quality reports. Listen and watch for news or health warnings about smoke. Find out if your community provides reports about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index (AQI). In addition, pay attention to public health messages about taking safety measures.

• Consult local visibility guides if they are available. Some communities have monitors that measure the amount of particles that are in the air. In the western part of the United States, some states and communities provide guidelines to help people determine if there are high levels of particulates in the air by how far they can see.

• Keep indoor air as clean as possible if you are advised to stay indoors. Keep windows and doors closed. Run an air conditioner if you have one, but keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside. If you do not have an air conditioner and it is too warm to stay inside with the windows closed, seek shelter in a designated evacuation center or away from the affected area.

• Avoid activities that increase indoor pollution. Burning candles, fireplaces, or gas stoves can increase indoor pollution. Vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home, contributing to indoor pollution. Smoking also puts even more pollution into the air.

• Prevent wildfires from starting. Prepare, build, maintain and extinguish campfires safely. Comply with local regulations if you plan to burn trash or debris. Check with your local fire department to be sure the weather is safe enough for burning.

• Follow the advice of your doctor or other healthcare provider about medicines and about your respiratory management plan if you have asthma or another lung disease. Consider evacuating the area if you are having trouble breathing. Call for further advice if your symptoms worsen.

• Do not rely on dust masks for protection. Paper “comfort” or “dust” masks commonly found at hardware stores are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. These masks will not protect your lungs from the small particles found in wildfire smoke.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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