COLORADO, USA — Smoke from distant wildfires is blowing into the Colorado sky this week.
The National Weather Service (NWS) in Boulder said that "significant" wildfire activity in Canada, particularly in the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta where over 1 million acres have burned, would likely bring an increase in smoke for Colorado over the coming days.
That smoke was visible over northeast Colorado on Thursday, and Denver was listed in the top five cities in the world with the worst air quality.
NWS said that north-to-northeast winds over the next couple of days would bring more smoke to northeast Colorado by Friday. Forecasters said Friday would be the worst day for the smoke, with gradual improvement possible over the weekend.
An Action Day Alert will be in effect from 4 p.m. Friday to 4 p.m. Sunday for the Front Range from Douglas County north to Larimer and Weld Counties, including the Denver-Boulder area, Fort Collins and Greeley.
In northeastern Colorado, an Air Quality Health Advisory for Wildfire Smoke was in effect through 4 p.m. Friday for Larimer, Weld, Morgan, Logan, Sedgwick, Phillips, Boulder, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Gilpin, Jefferson, Denver, Adams, Arapahoe, Washington, Yuma, Douglas, Elbert, El Paso, Lincoln, Kit Carson, and Cheyenne Counties. Locations include, but are not limited to, Fort Collins, Greeley, Fort Morgan, Sterling, Julesburg, Holyoke, Boulder, Broomfield, Central City, Golden, Denver, Brighton, Littleton, Akron, Wray, Castle Rock, Colorado Springs, Kiowa, Hugo, Burlington, and Cheyenne Wells.
In southeastern Colorado, an Air Quality Health Advisory for Wildfire Smoke was in effect through 4 p.m. Friday for Fremont, Pueblo, Crowley, Kiowa, Otero, Bent, Prowers, Huerfano, Las Animas, and Baca Counties. Locations include, but are not limited to, Canon City, Pueblo, Ordway, Eads, La Junta, Las Animas, Lamar, Walsenburg, Trinidad, and Springfield.
For eastern Colorado, an Air Quality Health Advisory is in effect through 9 a.m. Sunday for Morgan, Logan, Sedgwick, Phillips, Clear Creek, Gilpin, Washington, Yuma, Elbert, El Paso, Lincoln, Kit Carson, Cheyenne, Fremont, Pueblo, Crowley, Kiowa, Otero, Bent, Prowers, Huerfano, Las Animas and Baca counties.
If smoke is thick or becomes thick in your neighborhood, you may want to remain indoors. This is especially true for those with heart disease, respiratory illnesses, the young and the elderly.
"When you inhale air pollution at this level, you're inhaling both small and large particulates. It may be irritating to your nasal passageways, might make you sneeze," explained Dr. Mary Laird Warner, a pulmonary critical care specialist and the chief medical officer at North Suburban Medical Center.
"But the smaller particulates are getting deep into your lungs. You may perceive shortness of breath, tightness in your chest. You may hear a funny musical sound coming out – we call that a wheeze. Or you may just feel difficulty taking a breath and chest pain."
Dr. Warner said when the air quality index reaches the orange level, the air is unhealthy for everyone — even usually healthy people. She recommends limiting, or avoiding time outdoors, and for anyone who relies on a rescue inhaler — to keep it handy.
"You just want to listen to your body," Dr. Warner said. "If you're starting to notice any limitations, slow down, lower your level of exercise and work toward getting indoors."
Dr. David Beuther, a pulmonologist at National Jewish Health, will be joining the thousands of runners at the Colfax Marathon race events Sunday morning. He's part of a team of doctors running the relay race.
"If you’ve been training for a marathon, there's not much that’s going to stop you," he said.
"Maybe set your expectations appropriately. There's a higher than normal chance you don’t feel great or don’t get best time. And for those of us that are healthy, I wouldn’t be surprised if we have a scratchy throat, runny nose, cough – but shouldn’t suffer any long term effects from this."
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