Air quality a major concern throughout Garfield County, region with raging wildfires to west and to the east

A spotter for an airtanker flies around the plume of smoke billowing from the Grizzly Creek Fire as it blows up in No Name Canyon on Wednesday afternoon.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Residents are advised to take the following precautions to keep indoor air clean during smoke events:  
  • Close the fresh-air intake for central air systems and do not use swamp coolers.
  • Buy a portable air cleaner that has high efficiency filters and is the right size for the room.
  • Avoid activities that add to indoor air pollution. Don’t vacuum, burn candles, or use cooking methods that produce smoke.
Source: Garfield County Public Health

Smoke from the Grizzly Creek Fire in Glenwood Canyon and the Pine Gulch Fire burning north of Grand Junction continues to severely affect air quality in the region, prompting renewed public health alerts.

Garfield County remains under an advisory for wildfire smoke by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

As of Friday, the Grizzly Creek Fire had grown to 13,441 acres, and the massive Pine Gulch Fire burning on the Garfield-Mesa County line west of DeBeque was at 73,381 acres.

The combination has been creating a thick smoke cloud that has settled in the tight river confluence valley in Glenwood Springs for several mornings this week.

On Friday, the entire Roaring Fork Valley and the neighboring Eagle River valley was filled with smoke.

“We will continue to monitor real-time information in Battlement Mesa and Rifle relating to the smoke,” Garfield County Environmental Health Specialist Anna Cochran said in a press release issued earlier this week as the Grizzly Creek Fire began to burn.

Garfield County Public Health also advises that wildfire smoke can severely impact people with respiratory ailments, including COVID-19, lowering one’s immune system.

More information can be found at the Centers for Disease Control’s Wildfire Smoke and COVID-19 page, including an explanation of the differences between symptoms of smoke exposure and COVID-19, and protections from wildfire smoke during the pandemic.

“Wildfire smoke may reach unhealthy levels for sensitive groups,” the county’s release stated. “If visibility is less than 5 miles in your neighborhood, avoid outdoor exercise and keep indoor air clean.”

As of Friday, the 24-hour average for Particulate Matter 2.5 measured by the county’s mobile air-quality monitoring unit had risen 47 micrograms per cubic meter.

“This puts us in the ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ category, according to the air quality index. We’re recommending that people to consider limiting outdoor activity when moderate to heavy smoke is present,” GCPH advises in it release.

PM 2.5 refers to tiny particulates that are two and a half microns or less in width, and can travel deep into the lungs when breathed in.

Current air quality information is available on the Garfield County website at and updates on the Pine Gulch Fire are available at Updates on the Grizzly Creek Fire can be found on a dedicated Facebook page.

Information on the health impacts of wildfire smoke can be found on the county’s wildfire smoke page.

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