Pine Gulch Fire affecting Garfield County air quality
Particulate matter on the rise as fire north of Grand Junction grows in size
August 10, 2020
GARFIELD COUNTY, CO – Smoke from the Pine Gulch Fire burning north of Grand Junction is affecting air quality in Garfield County, which is currently under an advisory for wildfire smoke by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). The blaze is up to 28,888 acres as of Monday morning.
Garfield County Public Health operates an extensive air monitoring network with two locations that collect real-time data on particulate matter (PM), which is a primary component of smoke.
“We have seen a rise in particulate matter, due primarily to the Pine Gulch Fire,” said to Garfield County Environmental Health Specialist Anna Cochran. “We will continue to monitor real-time information in Battlement Mesa and Rifle relating to the smoke. As of August 10, the 24-hour average for PM 2.5 has risen around 40 micrograms per cubic meter. This puts us in the ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ category, according to the air quality index. We’re recommending that people to consider limiting outdoor activity when moderate to heavy smoke is present.”
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index (AQI) outlines health advisory levels, which are color-coded and based on regulatory standards for criteria pollutants that have set thresholds under the Clean Air Act. PM 2.5 refers to tiny particulates that are two and a half microns or less in width, and can travel deep into the lungs when breathed in.
Current air quality information is available on the Garfield County website at www.garfield-county.com/air-quality and updates on the Pine Gulch Fire are available at www.garfieldcounty.net. Information on the health impacts of wildfire smoke can be found on the county’s wildfire smoke page.
People are often most aware of air quality when it is visibly impacted. Garfield County works year-round to collect and report data on a wide variety of air pollutants. Due to ongoing dry conditions, western Colorado may be affected by smoke from wildfires throughout the summer. Everyone should have a plan to protect their health and home.
If visibility becomes less than five miles or if air quality becomes listed as “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” active children and adults, and people with lung disease, such as asthma, should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors. Residents are also advised to take the following precautions to keep indoor air clean during smoke events:
- Close the fresh-air intake for central air systems and do not use swamp coolers.
- Buy a portable air cleaner that has high efficiency filters and is the right size for the room.
- Avoid activities that add to indoor air pollution. Don’t vacuum, burn candles, or use cooking methods that produce smoke.