Smoke haze lingers over Steamboat, causes health concerns

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Haze hangs in the air around Steamboat Springs on Wednesday morning. Joe Ramey, a forecaster with the National Weather Service, said a northwest flow is bringing smoke from wildfires as far away as northern California, Nevada and southern Idaho. The haze Steamboat residents are seeing from the smoke could stick around through early next week, Ramey said. Maps of active fires across the U.S. are available at <a href="http://activefiremaps.fs.fed.us/">www.activefiremaps.fs.fed.us</a> and <a href="http://wildfiretoday.com/2012/08/14/wildfire-smoke-map-august-14-2012/">www.wildfiretoday.com</a>.

— Knowing that the smoky haze from Western wildfires lingering over Steamboat Springs could be with us into next week, public health officials are recommending residents take precautions, such as limiting strenuous outdoor activity — especially at-risk groups such as children, seniors and those with respiratory illnesses.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is monitoring air quality across the state and issuing advisories for the Front Range. Most areas have a rating of good to moderate.

Routt County Environmental Health Director Mike Zopf recommended that county residents use visibility to judge air quality.

“When gauging visibility, look away from the sun,” he added.

A Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment page provides a rubric for translating visibility in miles into advisory levels. Zopf said the Yampa Valley probably is seeing moderate conditions Thursday but cautioned that the advisory guidelines apply to generally healthy people. Children, seniors and those with respiratory illnesses should take extra precautions. And, of course, if individuals are not feeling well, they should speak with their physician.

Zopf said that his department monitors fine particulate matter at the PM10 size but that matter from wildfires might be closer to size PM2.5, which the county is not set up to monitor.

“Visibility is really the thing people need to look at,” he said.

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