Return of heavy smoke not cause for health concern | AspenTimes.com

Return of heavy smoke not cause for health concern

Amy Meyerson
Special to The Aspen Times

After a week of rainy weather wiped out the smoky air we had come to expect during June, the Roaring Fork Valley is again enveloped in a haze.

Local officials, however, say not to worry: There are no new fires burning in the immediate area, and the smoky air does not pose any significant health risks.

Scott Thompson of the Basalt fire department said the smoke, which is very thick downvalley, is mostly the result of “burnouts” at the Spring Creek fire, near New Castle. “Burnouts” are a technique used by firefighters in which they start fires around the main fire to make cleared-out areas that keep the fire from spreading.

Thompson stated that the smoke is far worse in El Jebel than in Aspen. Though many complain about the smoky air that blots out the view of the mountains, Thompson said it has its upside: It reminds people that the fire danger is still very extreme.

The Aspen Environmental Health Department and Aspen Valley Hospital both said they have received no complaints about health problems caused by the recent increase of smoke.

However, spokespersons from both agencies said that if people do exhibit any symptoms, such as trouble breathing, they should contact either facility. People with asthma could find themselves having difficulty with the smoke and should avoid aggressive exercise.

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People with healthy lungs should have nothing to worry about, said an Aspen Valley Hospital spokesperson. If people with heart or respiratory problems are feeling affected they should remain inside and contact the hospital.

The Environmental Health Department said that the only reason the air seems smokier now than it did last week is that the wind direction has changed, bringing more smoke into our area. The smoke is, however, thin enough and high enough that people shouldn’t be affected.

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