Glenwood Springs smoke an irritant here |

Glenwood Springs smoke an irritant here

Veronica Whitney

The acrid smell of smoke woke up Ellen Feigin in Eagle at 2 a.m. Monday.

“I thought my house was on fire. It was terrible,” Feigin said. The smoke, of course, came from the Coal Seam Fire burning in and around Glenwood Springs.

Many Eagle County residents woke up Monday with sore throats and itchy eyes. As long as the fire burns in Glenwood Springs and the winds blow from the west, residents in the valley will smell and see smoke, said Christopher Dann, spokesman for the Air Pollution Control Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

“If you can smell the smoke, it already has impacted you,” Dann said. “Smoke can have a short duration impact. It can make you feel sick, but long-term impacts are minimal if any. Our bodies have the ability to rid themselves from smoke particles within a few days.”

Still, Dann recommends people avoid strenuous physical activity indoors or outdoors if there’s a smell of smoke in the air.

“When you’re exercising, you take larger amounts of air,” he explained.

“It’s hard to say when to start again. But for the typical adult, once you can’t smell the smoke, you can start exercising again. Smell is the big indicator.”

Those who should be more careful are people with pre-existing respiratory conditions such as asthma, emphysema, cardiovascular disease, or respiratory infections like colds or flus. Young children – especially under 7 years old – and the elderly are more exposed to smoke particles, which are really small and can travel hundreds of miles, Dann said. Symptoms of exposure are irritation in eyes, nose, throat, tightness of chest and coughing.

Dr. Ned Calogne, acting chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, advises people who are in areas where they can smell smoke and are experiencing symptoms to move indoors and stay there with the windows closed.

Colorado air quality experts monitor the air quality impacts of wildfire smoke as closely as possible. But although the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Air Pollution Control Division tries to update residents frequently about what parts of the state are being impacted most by the smoke, air quality impacts of wildfire smoke weren’t available in Eagle County or Glenwood Springs on Monday.

“Eagle County has always met ambient air quality standards, so we don’t have a detailed monitoring network with data,” said Ray Merry, director of environmental health for Eagle County.

In Glenwood Springs, there also isn’t a quality air control air monitoring network to capture data for an unplaned event, Dann said.

In the meantime, Vanessa Thomassie of Edwards biked Monday afternoon along Highway 6, heedless of the haze.

“I can’t smell any smoke,” she said as she started her workout. “I’ll bike until I can’t breath anymore.”

Some breezes are expected this afternoon from the west, said Jim Daniels, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

“The wind speed, however, will not be as strong as it was during the weekend when there was a wind advisory for the area,” Daniels said.

Merry suggested people use common sense if they decide to work out in the next few days – indoors or outdoors.

“People can use their olfactory sensor and be careful if it smells like a campfire,” he said.

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