Smoke prompts health advisory

Officials caution against prolonged exposure to haze caused by Arizona wildfire

Sean Borris, of Durango, powers up Hesperus Hill on U.S. Highway 160 with haze around him. “The smoke doesn’t bother me. It just detracts from the view,” said Borris after reaching the top of the hill. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Herald

Sean Borris, of Durango, powers up Hesperus Hill on U.S. Highway 160 with haze around him. “The smoke doesn’t bother me. It just detracts from the view,” said Borris after reaching the top of the hill.

Local health officials issued a health advisory Monday because of poor air quality resulting from a vast wildfire burning in Arizona.

Those with respiratory illnesses such as asthma or heart disease, the elderly and infants could be at risk and are cautioned to limit prolonged exertion.

“I think it’s important to note that when it gets this smoky, it’s important to limit strenuous activity,” said Mike Meschke, environmental health director for the San Juan Basin Health Department.

He warned that some seemingly healthy people also will feel respiratory symptoms from these conditions.

Based on weather forecasts, the San Juan Basin Health Department expects similar visibility and haze problems for the next 24 to 48 hours, Meschke said.

The rest of the state also was under an advisory through noon today.

According to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, strong winds were expected to persist through Monday night, prompting the weather service to issue a red-flag warning for the Durango area.

“Any fires that develop will spread rapidly and will be very difficult to control,” the warning stated. It recommended against outdoor burning.

Meschke cautions people to stay out of the wind, but he advises them to open their windows at night to circulate new air as the haze will typically clear during the evenings.

Residents are advised to take precautions if they notice that visibility is less than five miles.

Today, winds were expected to be calm, blowing west-southwest at 5 to 15 mph.

Kyle Fredin, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Denver said the smoke obscured the view of the mountains from downtown Denver.

The forecast through the weekend is for clear skies, light breezes and highs in the upper 70s and lower 80s and lows in the lower 40s.

jdahl@durangoherald.com

Smoke turned the sun red as it rose Monday morning over the Animas Museum. Enlarge photo

JOSH STEPHENSON/Herald

Smoke turned the sun red as it rose Monday morning over the Animas Museum.

Christine Smith and Rob Wallach walk on Rim Trail as strong winds blow some of the smoke out of the valley on Monday. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Herald

Christine Smith and Rob Wallach walk on Rim Trail as strong winds blow some of the smoke out of the valley on Monday.