Health officials warn of dangerous haze in Aspen area

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenJune 7, 2011
An out-of-control wildfire in Arizona is spewing so much smoke and ash into the sky that it is harming Colorado's air quality and prompting health officials here to issue an advisory for Aspen and its surrounding areas.
A smoky haze is blurring the skies in Snowmass and the valley.
Troy Hooper

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued its largest smoke health advisory of the season today warning residents in the Aspen area and the southern half of the state to beware of prolonged exposure or exertion outside. The advisory specifically targets at-risk individuals, including elderly, the very young, or those with heart disease or respiratory illnesses.

The Wallow fire, which on Monday ranked as the third largest in Arizona history, has charred 233,552 acres so far, most of it in the Apache National Forest along the state's eastern border. Meanwhile, low humidity and high winds are fueling fires elsewhere in Arizona. A pair of wildfires that broke out near the Colorado-New Mexico border have been contained.

Colorado health officials said some people should consider relocating temporarily if smoke is present indoors or making them ill. If visibility is less than 5 miles in your neighborhood, they said, smoke has reached unhealthy levels.

Particulates can trigger serious health problems that include symptoms such as shortness of breath or tightness in the chest. It can also trigger the onset of other troubles associated with respiratory ailments, such as asthma.

In addition to the Aspen area, the state advisory covers Colorado Springs and everything south.

Even along the Front Range, in cities like Boulder and Denver, residents are advised to be wary.

Meteorologists are predicting cooler temperatures and rain this week that should help cleanse Colorado's dirty air.

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