State air quality alert expires, but Eagle County officials still urge caution
September 8, 2017
EAGLE — Hazy conditions continue across the valley, but the official air quality health advisory from the Colorado Department of Public Health expired Friday morning.
According to state health officials, smoke from regional wildfires in Colorado, combined with smoke drifting into the area from large fires burning around the West, tends to settle into valleys overnight. Those conditions prompted the state to issue the air quality advisory that affected Eagle County and 13 other western Colorado counties. The advisory was first issued Tuesday and then extended to Friday morning.
According to Eagle County Environmental Health Director Ray Merry, residents should continue to exercise good judgment regarding outdoor activities.
"If you look outside and it's really smoky, you have to ask if it's a good idea to go outside, especially for people who are at risk," Merry said.
In general, he noted most people are noticing running eyes, stuffy noses and itchy throats due to smoke in the air. But for at-risk populations, including people who have heart or lung disease, the elderly and young children, the air quality concerns are more serious. At-risk individuals are urged to remain indoors and to keep indoor air as clean as possible by keeping windows and doors closed.
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As seasonal allergy sufferers can attest, rainfall can measurably improve outdoor conditions and alleviate symptoms. But Merry said the rain that fell Thursday afternoon and Friday morning had only a small effect on current air quality conditions.
"The size of pollen grains is huge compared to the fire particles that are in the air," he said. "Also, if people think they can put on a dust mask to make things better, it won't."
Air quality concerns prompted the Vail Recreation District to postpone its cyclocross race planned last Wednesday. The event has been rescheduled for Sept. 27. Additionally, VRD Sports Department Director Joel Rabinowitz said youth soccer coaches were urged to be mindful about the conditions and forego outdoor practices until air quality improves.
Keep An Eye Out
Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District also offered air quality advice to coaches. Noting that while air quality measurements downvalley were in the moderate to good quality, WECMRD urged coaches to keep a special eye out for athletes who suffer from asthma or other respiratory problems.
"Avoid excessive maximal exertion for all athletes. We are not saying you can't work on conditioning, we suggest maybe holding off on long and maximal effort sessions until next week," noted the WECMRD statement.
'Day by Day'
Eagle Valley High School rescheduled a boys' soccer game that was scheduled to be played Thursday at Steamboat Springs.
"We have sent out air quality emails and warnings to coaching staff regarding practices and protocols based on the air quality number index," said Eagle Valley High School Athletic Director Tamara Payne. "At this point, we take it day by day and post our changes on our social media site."
Battle Mountain High School Athletic Director Christopher Bailey said the school is following the same protocols as EVHS, but BMHS has not yet had to reschedule any games.