Steamboat Springs The smoky haze that has blanketed the area in recent weeks has kept Routt County phones ringing.
Mike Zopf, director of the Routt County Department of Environmental Health said his office received a record number of calls Friday from residents and potential visitors to the area who are concerned about the smoke.
People want to know if it is safe to be outside, and people who plan to come to the area ask if the smoke will affect their children's health, Zopf said.
The air in and around Steamboat Friday contained twice as much particulate matter as normal.
The city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County purchased a $20,000 piece of equipment several years ago to monitor air quality and placed it atop the courthouse annex. Similar devices can be found in Denver, Telluride and Grand Junction.
Amounts of airborne particles that are smaller than 10 microns in size are monitored throughout the nation to ensure that regions do not exceed standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA standard, which measures particles over a 24-hour period, is 150 micrograms of particulate per meter of air.
The machine recorded levels of 100 Friday. Normal levels are about 50.
Air quality reaches unhealthy levels when visibility is less than five miles. Zopf said visibility in Steamboat fell below five miles on Friday.
County officials said the 300,000-acre wildfire in Arizona is the source of the smoke.
Zopf said he hoped the smoke would not be a routine occurrence. More hazy days, however, may be in the forecast.
"We're probably not over with it," Routt County Emergency Manager Chuck Vale said.
Unhealthy air quality levels warrant an extra note of caution. Zopf recommended that people with respiratory problems, children and the elderly consider staying indoors when visibility is less than five miles.
The county Environmental Health Department contacted the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association and Yampa Valley Medical Center to see if either saw an increase in patients Friday because of the smoky conditions.
Neither center reported any patients, he said, but a number of people called to ask about the smoke.
Zopf encouraged people to contact the Environmental Health Department at 879-0185 if they have questions regarding the effects of the air quality.