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Wildland Fire Air Quality

Wildland Fire

Anytime you see or smell smoke during a wildland fire, know that local air quality has been compromised.

When smoke levels are high, even healthy people can experience coughing, irritated sinuses, shortness of breath, headaches, and more. More concerning is that these symptoms are more severe among people with existing respiratory conditions, small children, and our older adult population. Thankfully, there are simple ways you can protect yourself and your family. When smoke is present, stay indoors as much as possible, keep doors and windows closed, avoid outdoor activities, and possibly relocate temporarily to an area away from the smoke.

Larimer County Department of Health and Environment provides Wildfire Smoke Health Advisories and Smoke Forecasts along with more information and resources concerning health risks from wildland fires.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does smoke impact our respiratory system?

Smoke is a complex mixture of carbon dioxide, water vapor, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, hydrocarbons, and other organic chemicals, nitrogen oxides, and metals. This mixture can irritate and injure the mouth, nose, throat, and lung tissue. Particles from smoke tend to be very small and are inhaled into the deepest recesses of the lung where they can be trapped and absorbed. Even in healthy people, this can cause temporary reductions in lung function and pulmonary inflammation. Particulate matter can also adversely affect the body's immune system. Prolonged exposure to any type of smoke is harmful to people of all ages. Like cigarette smoke, smoke from fires can eventually damage your body's ability to remove large particles and excess phlegm from your lungs and airway.

How can I protect the air quality inside my home or my vehicle during a wildland fire?

Close all windows and doors. If you have an air conditioner, run it, but make sure that the fresh air intake filter is clean. If not, turn the system off. Health authorities recommend that people should avoid using swamp coolers when smoke levels are higher than normal. Most swamp coolers have air screens that are much too large to filter smoke particles. The Department of Health also recommends that motorists use recirculated air while using their vehicle air conditioning during smoke events.

How is air quality monitored in Fort Collins?

Larimer County Public Health and Environment maintains several air quality monitors in Fort Collins. Particulate monitors located on the CSU campus provide hourly data that is posted online.

For additional information, visit the following websites: