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Deteriorating air quality from wildfires raises concerns

glenwood canyon i-70 fire cdot
Photo from Grizzly Creek Fire in Glenwood Canyon courtesy of CDOT

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- As the Pine Gulch and Grizzly Creek Wildfires continue to blaze in Colorado, concerns mount over deteriorating air quality and smoke along the Front Range.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), due to wildfire smoke being transported into the Front Range, Ozone and Fine Particulate concentrations could reach the 'Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups' category through Friday evening.

High ozone could expand southward from Denver into the Colorado Springs area Friday afternoon.

CDPHE urges anyone with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children to reduce prolonged or heavy exertion on Friday.

Dr. Daniel Soteres with Asthma Allergy Associates encourages people to avoid exercise outdoors and to stay indoors as much as possible with A/C turned on. Soteres adds that if your asthma symptoms worsen, including an increase in cough, wheeze or shortness of breath to contact your doctor.

Christopher Merrick, M.D., Pulmonary Associates, says, "Smoke in the atmosphere, especially in the warmer months, which is when it typically happens can certainly affect the lungs."

Merrick adds that people with asthma, heart disease, and related lung diseases like COPD are at high risk for smoke inhalation, which can cause cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.

Health experts and the state recommend that these sensitive groups, along with young children and the elderly to heed caution outdoors. Dr. Merrick recommends staying indoors in a cool home or building, using medications as prescribed, and avoiding excessive outdoor exertion.

"Now would be the time to take it easy," Merrick clarifies. "If you fit one of those categories, there’s no need to be hiking or doing a 14er, but a time to probably be avoiding outdoor activities."

According to the Incident Information System, the Grizzly Creek Fire has grown to over 13,441 acres overnight, caused by a combination of dry vegetation, steep terrain, and the Red Flag conditions of hot, dry weather and gusty winds.

The Pine Gulch Fire, north of Grand Junction, has reached 73,381 acres and is 7% contained. Critically dry fuels, severe drought conditions, critical fire weather creating extreme fire behavior are creating a high resistance to control. 

Colorado Springs / Local News / News
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Kerjan Bianca

Kerjan is the weekend morning anchor and reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Kerjan here

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