Air quality alerts go out as Western Slope is swathed in fires

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Grizzly Creek Fire near Glenwood Springs. —AMY HADDEN MARSH PHOTO

RBC | The Grizzly Creek Fire is burning in the White River National Forest near Glenwood Springs and has closed I-70 indefinitely. Smoke from this blaze, and the Pine Gulch Fire near Grand Junction, are affecting air quality in Rio Blanco County.

With one of the largest wildfires in the country burning north of Grand Junction, and a new fire in Glenwood Canyon, local air quality has been severely affected this week. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC), breathing in wildfire smoke can have immediate health effects, including coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, trouble breathing normally, chest pain, stinging eyes, headaches, scratchy throat, asthma attacks, runny nose, irritated sinuses, tiredness, and a rapid heartbeat. 

Anyone, even otherwise healthy people, can experience these symptoms when there’s enough smoke in the air, but older adults, pregnant women, children, and people with preexisting respiratory and heart conditions may be more likely to experience symptoms. 

Guidelines for protecting yourself and your family include:

• Keeping doors and windows closed, closing the fresh air intake on your air conditioner and keeping the filter clean, and seeking shelter elsewhere if it is too warm to stay inside. 

• Use of a freestanding indoor air filter with particle removal can help protect people at higher risk of problems from smoke exposure. 

• Skip housework, as vacuuming and dusting disturb particles already in your home and add to the indoor air pollution. Smoking inside, burning incense or candles, or lighting a fireplace are also discouraged.