Smoke from Canada prompts statewide alert, but upper Roaring Fork air is still pretty good
Even though the Roaring Fork Valley is enjoying a wet, green spring, wildfire and smoke are already a thickening presence. Still, Aspen’s rarefied air checked out as pretty good Monday. Much of the state, mainly along the Front Range, wasn’t so fortunate.
Massive fires in western Canada continued to send smoke into Colorado, prompting state health officials Monday to issue another alert for poor air quality.
“Ozone and fine particulates levels have steadily increased and have now reached the Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups category,” the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced Monday afternoon.
Elevated levels of both pollutants will be possible through Tuesday afternoon, the state agency said. The alert included a wide swath of Colorado’s Front Range, spanning Douglas County north into metro Denver and up through Larimer and Weld counties.
Expected visibility will remain poor into Tuesday, state officials predicted. The alert recommended that sensitive people should consider reducing prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion.
The National Weather Service issued air quality alerts for all of Montana, as well as parts of Idaho, Colorado and Arizona over the weekend. The fires have burned over 2 million acres.
According to IQ Air, an organization monitoring air quality throughout the world, Denver ranked in the top five for worst air quality on Saturday, and still was 18th worst in the world Monday morning.
Roaring Fork escapes the brunt
In the Roaring Fork Valley, skies were a bit hazy and mountains a bit obscured due to lingering smoke. But Aspen’s air quality measured as satisfactory, and air pollution posed little or no health risk, according to authorities.
“We are experiencing some wildfire smoke impacts from Canada and our local air quality is still in the ‘good’ air quality index category. Just because we can see some haze, that doesn’t mean the air is unhealthy,” said Natalie Tsevdos, the city of Aspen’s environmental health administrator
Good and moderate air quality levels are generally considered acceptable, she said. Public health officials become much more concerned when the Air Quality Index reaches above 100.
The city has a link (aspen.gov/1371/Wildfire-Smoke) dedicated to wildfires, smoke, information and education.
The city’s information site points out that while smoke can impact anyone, sensitive populations such as children, pregnant people, the elderly, those who work or exercise outside, and those with asthma and other respiratory concerns are especially at risk during a smoke event.
“There may be a moderate health concern for a small number of people who are sensitive to air pollution, but the general public is not likely to be affected (by the current smoke),” Tsevdos said. “We encourage everyone to make the choice that’s best for them when considering prolonged or strenuous outdoor activity if they are unusually sensitive to air pollutants.”
Some helpful sites:
- To check Aspen’s current air quality conditions: https://aspen.gov/298/Current-Air-Quality
- The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment provides smoke forecasts via Wildfire Smoke Health Advisories and Smoke Outlooks for the entire state: https://cdphe.colorado.gov/environment/air-pollution-control
- Pitkin Alerts and neighboring county alerts, like Garfield County and Eagle County, provide local emergency and public health alerts.
- To check current smoke forecasts and current air quality advisories: https://www.pitkinemergency.org/airquality.html