Vail Daily letter: Think of others when having bonfires
July 11, 2017
For the past 24 hours, as I write this, the air quality in Edwards and much of Eagle County has been awful, not only from the wildfires but from residents having bonfires further polluting the air.
Even though Eagle County issued a health warning today, no mention was made of asking people not to further muck up the air by building bonfires for the needless "ambiance" of a campfire.
The result is that those who suffer from asthma and other life-threatening respiratory problems are trapped inside their homes, and for those without air conditioning, that means being shut in an 80-plus degree house and not being able to even crack a window.
As my wife suffers from asthma, we spent a very uncomfortable evening Tuesday, July 4, in a hot house because of the wildfires. Tonight (Wednesday, July 5) we got a brief respite from the wildfire smoke and were able to open the house and started to cool things down, only to have to quickly close windows and doors when smoke started drifting in from neighbors lighting their fire pits.
What many do not realize about asthma and other respiratory ailments is they are far worse than just getting a little cough. Treating an asthma attack requires inhaling steroids or other very powerful drugs. The after effects of an asthma attack can be debilitating for days — think the worst hangover you ever had, and you didn't even drink anything. It is estimated that more than 250,000 people die prematurely each year due just to asthma, and there is no question wood smoke is a huge factor in asthma attacks.
Residents need to realize they don't live in the wilderness. If you have a fire pit, it's probably within 50 to 100 feet of several homes. Consider the impact your indulgence in a campfire might have on your neighbors. There are numerous options for sitting outside and staying warm, including gas fire pits and patio heaters that are environmentally friendlier and much more neighborly.
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Eagle County needs to reconsider how to deal with air-quality alerts. Most metro areas have had wood-burning restrictions in place during air-quality alerts for decades.
As a community, we also need to consider the integrity of claiming to be an environmentally conscious bunch if we continue to allow bonfires generating huge amounts of air pollution for no real gain. We all congratulated one another when wood-burning fireplaces were banned 30 years ago; perhaps it's time to take the next step.
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