Pete FowlerGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

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July 9, 2007
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Utah fire contributing to hazy skies

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. Haze around Glenwood Springs and the surrounding area likely is coming from smoke from as far away as Utah.Smoke from the largest fire in Utah's history certainly played a part. There was at least one wildfire in southwestern Colorado Monday, and several others throughout the West."We've had quite a few fires in the area, and that's what most of the haze is from," said Aldis Strautins, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Grand Junction. "Smoke is getting drawn over into Western Colorado and hanging out here as we sit underneath an upper-level high-pressure system. That kind of helps keep things stagnant. The smoke can't get pushed out as easily that way."Strautins said the high-pressure system, which has been keeping weather hot and dry as well as trapping the haze, is expected to continue through at least the beginning of next week."I would bet money that part of the smoke we're seeing is from the wildfire in Utah," said Jim Rada, environmental health manager for Garfield County. "It was a little bit hazy last night. It seems like it's gotten heavier or more intense, but it's really hard to tell because when you have particulate pollution like that the intensity is more apparent depending on the angle of the sun."The Milford Flat Fire, burning about 120 miles south of Salt Lake City, had reached more than 300,000 acres Monday. It was sparked by lightning on Friday. With 250 personnel already on the scene, up to another 250 firefighters and possibly more were expected to assist with the blaze.At least six other fires were burning across Utah, clouding the mountains surrounding Salt Lake City in a smoky haze. The Neola North Fire burned about 43,511 acres in northeastern Utah by Monday afternoon. Three people were killed trying to escape the flames. A wildfire sparked by lightning in Durango started Saturday night, destroyed a house and blackened 1,250 acres in southwest Colorado. Winds whipped the flames up to 100 feet high.The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) Web site said on Monday that 41 large fires were burning in 11 western states."The severity of the western fire season increased dramatically in the last three days, as thunderstorms ignited 1,500 new fires over a widespread geographic region," it said. According to the NIFC, several "large" fires were reported by Colorado's western neighbors: six in Arizona, four in Utah and two in Wyoming."I don't have any numbers as far as what the pollution levels are," Rada said. "Particulate pollution in the atmosphere can be particularly hard on folks that have chronic cardio-pulmonary disease, young children, older adults - it can be difficult for them. The particles, when they get into your lungs, can interfere with your body's ability to absorb oxygen. It can intensify the symptoms of those already compromised."Two small brush fires were reported late Monday afternoon, but likely didn't contribute much to the haze in the area. One was reported off Donegan Road, and the other started behind the Best Value Inn and Suites on Highway 6, Glenwood Springs Fire Department Chief Mike Piper said.The Associated Press contributed to this report.Contact Pete Fowler: 945-8515, ext. 16611pfowler@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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The Post Independent Updated Jul 10, 2007 01:15AM Published Jul 9, 2007 02:00AM Copyright 2007 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.