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Outdoor air quality in Marshall Fire burn areas similar to ordinary air pollution, NOAA says

Marshall Fire
Posted at 4:56 PM, Jan 25, 2022

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. – The air quality where Colorado’s most destructive fire burned last month is similar to ordinary air pollution found in other urban areas, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Nearly two weeks ago, Boulder County Public Health (BCPH) released guidance on what people should consider when spending time outside, after concerns were raised by the community on the potential risks of harmful particles in the air from the debris and ash left by the blaze.

On Monday, BCPH officials said preliminary analysis of outdoor air measurements from Louisville, Superior and other affected areas of unincorporated Boulder County showed that while there was presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), the analysis indicated “they were at levels similar to normal air pollution found in and around cities.”

County health officials noted that while they expect VOCs to decrease over the coming weeks, particulate air pollution may remain a concern for several months due to changing weather conditions.

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“While Boulder County recovers and heals from an urban fire unlike any in our state's history, BCPH is committed to keeping our community safe,” said Dr. Lexi Nolen, Boulder County Public Health Deputy Director. Nolen said her public health department would be developing tools in the coming weeks to keep residents informed about quality in the air, water and soil among other environmental concerns related to the Marshall Fire.

The public health department advised residents to be mindful of their indoor air quality and make sure they’re not tracking ash into homes and recommended people get their HVAC ducts cleaned and replace filters as soon as they appear soiled.

They also recommend that people in the burn areas of surrounding communities limit outdoor activity or stay indoors and keep windows and doors closed on windy days. If you can’t avoid being outside on such days, they recommend wearing an N95 mask.

Poor air quality can cause some of the same symptoms as COVID-19, public health officials warned, so residents are advised to talk to their health care provider and stay home, get tested and follow the latest public health guidance when it comes to isolating and quarantining.

For more information on the latest regarding the Marshall Fire, click here.