Heavy smoke is expected to blanket the region during the late evenings and early mornings for as long as the 416 and Burro fires burn in the San Juan National Forest. The smoke is expected to cause low visibility and fine particles that can cause persistent coughing and difficulty breathing.
The National Weather Service in Grand Junction has issued a dense smoke advisory for parts of Southwest Colorado from 9 p.m. Sunday through noon Monday. Smoke is expected to be heaviest in the U.S. Highway 550 corridor from Molas Pass through Durango and down to the New Mexico state line, as well as the U.S. Highway 160 corridor between Hesperus and Bayfield, extending east past Pagosa Springs. Visibility is expected to be a quarter mile or less.
The greatest risk for dense smoke will occur between midnight Sunday and 8 a.m. Monday, the weather service said.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment also has issued an air quality health advisory because of wildfire smoke for a large portion of Southwest Colorado. The advisory was issued for northeastern Montezuma County, eastern Dolores County, and La Plata and San Juan counties. That advisory is in effect until 9 a.m. Monday.
When moderate to heavy smoke is present, residents should consider limiting physical exertion and time outside, according to San Juan Basin Public Health advisories. If visibility is less than 5 miles, smoke has reached levels that are unhealthy.
Air quality tends to improve in the afternoon, but if residents have been exposed to polluted air in the morning, they should still consider taking it slower later in the day, said Scott Landes, meteorology and prescribed fire supervisor with the state’s Air Pollution Control Division.
“The health effects of fine particles linger,” he said.
Tips to protect yourself:
Consider relocating temporarily if smoke is present indoors and is making you ill.If you are having difficulty breathing, see a health provider.People with heart or lung disease, older adults and children should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion.Close windows and doors and stay inside. However, do not close up your home tightly if it makes it dangerously warm inside.Run air conditioning if it filters air coming into the home. Use high-efficiency particulate air filtration units if you have them.Avoid smoking and/or secondhand smoke, vacuuming, candles and other sources of additional air pollution.Do not use paper dust masks or hold a cloth over your face. These masks do not filter out the particles and gases in smoke.Close bedroom windows at night.To prepare for nighttime smoke, consider airing out your home during the early or middle of the afternoon if the smoke is more diluted. If your child is experiencing respiratory symptoms, contact your pediatrician or go to the nearest emergency room.Respirator face masks can protect residents from fine particles in smoke and they are available at hardware stores and pharmacies. However, using respirator masks can make it harder to breathe, which may make existing medical conditions worse.